Series/Standalone – Standalone
Genre – Historical Fiction
Audience – Teenage/Young Adult
Page Count – 224
Date of Publication – 5th November 2020 by Andersen Press Ltd
Purchase – Waterstones | Hive | Book Depository | Wordery | Amazon
Book is mine and all thoughts and feelings are my own.
Seventeen-year-old Margot Allan was a respectable vicar’s daughter and madly in love with her fiance Harry. But when Harry was reported Missing in Action from the Western Front, and Margot realised she was expecting his child, there was only one solution she and her family could think of in order to keep that respectability. She gave up James, her baby son, to be adopted by her parents and brought up as her younger brother.
Now two years later the whole family is gathering at the Vicarage for Christmas. It’s heartbreaking for Margot being so close to James but unable to tell him who he really is. But on top of that, Harry is also back in the village. Released from captivity in Germany and recuperated from illness, he’s come home and wants answers. Why has Margot seemingly broken off their engagement and not replied to his letters? Margot knows she owes him an explanation. But can she really tell him the truth about James?
For a short and relatively quiet book, The Silent Stars Go By certainly packs a punch, not being afraid to tackle a myriad of feelings and heart-wrenching situations. In fact, I think it’s what Sally Nicholls seems to do best, exploring everyone in a story rather than solely focusing on those feelings of the main character. Yes, Margot’s journey is centre stage but she also tackles PTSD, depression, parental guilt, and worthiness within the Allan family, making the 1919 Christmas celebrations all the more poignant as they learn how to live in this temporary post-war world.
As a result, all the character arcs are open-ended. They leave us questioning what happens to them, and whilst I usually prefer some closure, it works in this case because life and time is too volatile. That also comes across in the writing as its very readable, easy style creates a sense of urgency. We want Margot to stop dancing round the truth and tell Harry about James, and to see them both reconcile before it is too late. However, at times it is a little too quick as we constantly jump back and forth from time to time in Margot’s mind. That volatility and urgency also creates a rather abrupt ending, which I think will surprise and possibly disorientate other readers, but at the same time highlight the situation.
I was a broken mess when I finished the book, and I still feel broken when I think about it now. It has also cemented Sally Nicholls as my favourite YA Historical Fiction author, and I’m excited to see what she comes out with next.
Have you read The Silent Stars Go By?
What are your thoughts?