Title: A Star for Mrs. Blake
Author: April Smith
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher for tour with TLC Book Tours
Number of pages: 352 pages
First line: Cora Blake was certainly not planning on going to Paris that spring.
Goodreads blurb: …set in the 1930s about five American women – Gold Star Mothers – who travel to France to visit the graves of their World War I soldier sons: a pilgrimage that will change their lives in unforeseeable and indelible ways.
The women meet for the first time just before their journey begins: Katie, an Irish maid from Dorchester, Massachusetts; Minnie, wife of an immigrant Russian Jewish chicken farmer; Bobbie, a wealthy Boston socialite; Wilhelmina, a former tennis star in precarious mental health; and Cora Blake, a single mother and librarian from coastal Maine. In Paris, Cora meets a journalist whose drug habit helps him hide from his own wartime fate-facial wounds so grievous he’s forced to wear a metal mask. This man will change Cora’s life in wholly unexpected ways. And when the women finally travel to Verdun to visit the battlegrounds where their sons fought as well as the cemeteries where they are buried, shocking events-a death, a scandal, a secret revealed-will guarantee that Cora’s life and those of her traveling companions will become inextricably intertwined. Only now will they be able to emerge from their grief and return home to their loved ones.
A Star for Mrs. Blake got off to a slow start for me, but I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on it. I think this is a common issue when you have a book that follows the stories of several different characters, but fortunately, April Smith’s wonderfully descriptive writing and character insight made me keep reading.
I had never heard of the Gold Star Mothers program until I read this book, and I found this little snippet of history fascinating. In light of the knowledge that another world war is on the horizon, reading of mothers traveling to France to visit their sons’ graves a dozen years after World War I ended is especially poignant. Smith deals with the questions many mothers have: how did he die? was it worth it? why my son? These questions are universal, and are still being dealt with today by the family members of our men and women serving in Afghanistan.
Smith also deals with class, gender, and race issues, with the idea of military service without question, and with the trials faced by those who survived the war. While the various storylines seem a bit disparate during the first half of the book, they come together beautifully in the end. This is a must-read for any lovers of historical fiction, and especially those interested in World War I.
Thanks to the publishers, I am honored to be able to give a copy of A Star for Mrs. Blake away to one of my readers. Here’s how to enter:
~ One entry per person.
~ This giveaway is open to readers in the US only. (Publisher’s rules, not mine.)
~ Please leave a comment on this post before 11:59 p.m. PST, Friday, February 14, 2014. I will draw one winner on Saturday, the 15th, and contact him or her for her mailing information.