Review of The Stars in the Night by Clare Rhoden
Harry Fletcher is a confident young man.
Harry’s sure that he will marry Nora MacTiernan, no matter what their families say. He’s certain that he will always be there to protect Eddie, the boy his father saved from the gutters of Port Adelaide.
Only the War to End All Wars might get in the way of Harry’s plans…
From the beaches of Semaphore to the shores of Gallipoli, the mud of Flanders to the red dust of inland South Australia, this is a story of love, brotherhood, and resilience.
Such a beautiful story! I’m in love with the writing, the characters, the setting, and descriptions; everything about this sad, affirming, loving story.
I rarely start a review this way but I love, love, love The Stars in the Night and I want you to know it.
Clare Rhoden has given us World War 1 fiction wrapped it in history and the human experience and supported the whole with insight into the characters that shaped the early 1900s. From the overarching changes affected by Australia joining a war on the other side of the world, impact on families and individuals (from enlistment to return), and the infinite memories of watching friends, mates, die in horrific ways, Clare has delivered an easy to read, easy to sink your teeth in tale.
I cried as “Death pumped through his fingers.” How could I not?
Clare’s has crafted her phrasing and descriptions to perfection. With a few simple words she took me to the trenches and the mud and misery of war, first in Gallipoli and then France. It’s not all doom and gloom. There are highs to match the lows, love founded in letter-writing, experience learned in back rooms, laughs, challenges, and survival.
It’s not all war either. The story starts in the 1970s with Harry Fletcher and his grand-daughter going through some of his old things. Harry has always kept himself to himself and never lost his temper, but now memories are coming alive and those he’s tucked away demand attention. It starts with “Volume 1” of a diary. There’s no Volume 2 - that was lost. With Eddie.
And so we learn about Harry’s life and family before the war. His hot-tempered Irish mum, his sweetheart, Nora, and foster-brother, Eddie. Harry and Eddie enlist and are shipped off to Gallipoli and then France together. We experience something of the comradery of the trenches in the war scenes, all handled with a deft touch by Rhoden. The two young men are inseparable yet still find futures apart. Eddie falls in love with a young French woman when they the regiment is stationed near her half-ruined village. Harry’s heart has always belonged to Nora.
“Now it was time to harvest what their work had produced, except nobody at home understood that they were living in a new world birthed in the bloody abattoirs of Gallipoli and France.”
There is no heavy-handed dealing with history or moral. Clare Rhoden instead provides clear observation and reminders of how war has shaped contemporary culture. Timely observations as we struggle now (still) with the toxic leftovers of war’s impact on the psyche of individuals and communities at large, the pain and anguish passed down through families.
The Stars in the Night is about people, about Harry, before, during and following the “war to end all wars”.
Read this one. I highly recommend it.