THE SILENT STARS GO BY, by Sally Nicholls, Walker Books US, Sept. 20, 2022, Hardcover, $17.99 (young adult, ages 14 and up)
A young woman must deal with the consequences of an unexpected pregnancy during World War I in Sally Nicholls’ The Silent Stars Go By.
It’s Christmastime, 1919. Three years before, 17-year-old Margot Allan, a respectable vicar’s daughter, fell passionately in love. But she lost her fiancé, Harry, to the Great War. In turn, she gained a desperate secret, one with the power to ruin her life and her family’s reputation, a secret she guards at all costs.
Now Margot’s family is gathering at the vicarage for the first time since the War ended. And Harry, it turns out, isn’t dead. He’s alive and well, and looking for answers. Can their love survive the truth? —Synopsis provided by Walker Books US
The cover of Sally Nicholls’ The Silent Stars Go By is gorgeous, and is worth picking up for that reason alone, but the real reason to pick it up is the thoughtful WWI romance inside.
The Silent Stars Go By is based on the author’s family history, and it resonated deeply with me on a personal level. The story of a secret baby during World War I is one my family, too, can claim. Though the circumstances my great-grandfather faced were different, Nicholls’ narrative rings true. It is honest and heartbreaking and lovely.
The story is told from Margot’s perspective. She’s spent the past two years trying to make amends for her “mistake” and move forward. But how can you move forward when everything is a reminder? And she’s not the only one struggling. Her older brother’s return from war has been anything but easy. And Margot’s next-younger sister is resigning herself to a life alone.
Nicholls’ exploration of these complexities is rich and layered. Her characters are human and relatable. And their crisscrossing plotlines intermix spectacularly.
The Silent Stars Go By isn’t a particularly dynamic or adventurous read. Instead, it’s a bittersweet and reflective historical-fiction novel that really sits with you.
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