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Secrets smoulder and romance promises to rekindle during the first festive season post-WWI
November 2021 Book of the Month | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14
The Silent Stars Go By is a riveting read-in-one-sitting experience driven by compelling characters who leap off the page, not least the young woman at its heart, an unmarried secretarial student who’s forced to give up her baby during WWI. The novel is also underpinned by a superb sense of social history, with evocative details of post-war village life nestling within the bigger story, and - as might be expected of the author of Things a Bright Girl Can Do - it’s threaded with feminist themes.
It’s 1919, Christmas is on the horizon and two years have passed since nineteen-year-old Margot was forced to give up her baby for her parents to raise as their own. She was only fifteen when she and Harry fell madly in love ahead of him being called up. The magic of their time together is evoked in all its tingling passion, contrasting with Margot’s present-day torments. It hurts when little James calls her mother “Mummy”, and she doesn’t know how she can continue to keep James a secret from Harry, who’s returned to the village after recuperating on the Isle of Wight.
The flashbacks to Margot’s time on the maternity ward are particularly poignant and, of course, the reason she has to endure this unbearable situation is due to the fact that she lives in a world in which “the girl is the one whose honour is defiled or whatever rot they spout” whereas “the boy is just being a boy”. Coupled with that wider context, Margot’s vicar father is a man who “forgave drunks and tramps and fallen women and the men who tried to steal the lead from the church roof. But he couldn’t forgive her.”
Realising that “things couldn’t go on like this,” Margot decides to confront her fears amidst the rare glamour of a ball on New Year’s Eve.
A message from the author Sally Nicholls;
As an author, I’ve always been fascinated by family dynamics, whether that’s step-families, siblings raising siblings or children being raised by grandparents. My own father was an illegitimate war-baby, born at the end of the second world war. My grandmother chose to keep him, but he grew up with the stigma of ‘bastard’ at his back. In our near-past, literally thousands of babies were hidden in large families. As a solution to a social problem, it was a neat one. But how could you possibly be a good mother to a child who thought you were his sister?
Adoption was not legal in Britain until the 1926 Adoption Act. I was fascinated by the idea that Margot’s name would still be on her son’s birth certificate. How could you act in good faith to your child, your parents and your child’s father, knowing that that time-bomb was waiting somewhere in a study drawer?
Three years ago, Margot's life was turned upside down when her fiance, Harry, went missing in action on the Western Front. Worse, she was left with a devastating secret which threatened to ruin her life and destroy the reputation of her family. As a respectable vicar's daughter, Margot has had to guard that secret with great care ever since, no matter how much pain it causes her.
Now it's Christmas 1919, and Margot's family is gathering back home in the vicarage for the first time since the end of the Great War. And miraculously Harry has returned, hoping to see Margot and rekindle their romance. Can Margot ever reveal the shocking truth to the only man she has ever loved?
Nuanced and evocative, this is bittersweet perfection - Books of the Year, Guardian
Sally Nicholls conjures another era with a miraculous lightness of touch that fills me with joy and envy. Her characters don't just leap off the page, they grab you by the collar, demand your sympathy and surprise you at every turn -- Frances Hardinge
Gorgeously bittersweet, a festive classic in the making - Books of the Year, Observer
An engulfing historical novel - Books of the Year, The Times
A page-turner - Books of the Year, Telegraph
|Publication date:||4th November 2021|
|Publisher:||Andersen Press Ltd|
|Year Groups:||Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4|
|Topics:||Family / Home Stories, Historical Fiction, Festive Fiction, Romance / Relationship Stories|
I was born in Stockton-on-Tees, just after midnight, in a thunderstorm. My father died when I was two, and my brother Ian and I were brought up my mother. I always wanted to write - when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to say "I'm going to be a writer" - very definite. I've always loved reading, and I spent most of my childhood trying to make real life as much like a book as possible. My friends and I had a secret club like the Secret Seven, and when I was ...More About Sally Nicholls