The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling

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I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Lost History of Stars is a novel by Dave Boling. I was looking forward to reading this book because it is set in South Africa, just like one of my all-time favorites- The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. Almost immediately, I realized there was a connection between the books: in The Power of One, the English protagonist is severely bullied by Boer boys at his boarding school as punishment for the abuse their grandparents suffered in concentration camps at the hands of the English. The Lost History of Stars is an account of life in those camps as seen by a teenage girl.

Lettie is sent to a concentration camp along with her brother and mother after their farm is burned to the ground by the English. Her father, older brother, grandfather, and uncles are all conducting guerilla operations against the English. Conditions in the camp are bleak, and disease is rampant. Lettie is rather stoic about her experience, and tries to find pleasure in small moments. One of her most treasured possessions is her English dictionary, which she reads for comfort and to pass the time.

Lettie’s narrative shifts between the present and the past, providing the reader with vignettes of what her life was like on the farm before the war began. This background information helps define the dynamic between Lettie’s family members, some of whom are also in the camp.

The Lost History of Stars is a powerful novel that resonated with me. It is a story of desperation and it is a story of hope. Lettie is an insightful narrator, but she is still a young girl. The reader might pick up on some aspects of the plot that Lettie fails to realize the significance of. This does not make her an unreliable narrator per se, but rather, this serves as a more genuine account than having a preternaturally smart narrator. I would absolutely recommend The Lost History of Stars.

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