A Star for Mrs. Blake

A Star for Mrs. Blake

Book - 2014
Average Rating:
7
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"An emotionally-charged, brilliantly realized novel set in the 1930's about five American women--Gold Star Mothers--who travel to France to visit the graves of their WWI 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 war-time 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, and only now will they be able to emerge from their grief and return home to their loved ones. This is a timeless story set against a footnote of history: little known but unforgettable.."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2014
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780307958846
0307958841
Characteristics: 329 pages ; 25 cm

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AL_KATI Jun 28, 2017

Some mixed feelings about this. It's well-researched, especially for a subject I had never heard of, but something was lacking for me.

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IV27HUjg
Feb 25, 2017

I had similar views as 3 of the reviews. Part of history I'd not yet know about from WWI. I've come across info & photos of the ingenious methods used to cover such damaging war wounds, very pioneering methods that lead to further developments. Modern plastic surgery came out of these wars. For any further interest: Anna Coleman Ladd & the search leads to the doctor pioneering plastic surgery. The photos of such devastating damage then shows the remarkable masks made to help heal the psyche & assist the soldier attempt to rebuild his life.

As for the various characters I was less convinced or attached. During the beginning of the historical depression I had a hard time imagining women able to leave their families, despite all expenses paid.

Definitely a recurring theme, young men have heroic bravado to join the glorious fight. They get drunk & enlist, a global occurrence featured in several historical fiction reads. (East of Eden, the film Gallipoli, Testament of Youth, The War Horse, Ryan's Daughter.)

A worthy effort, a descent, informative read. I skimmed much of it. Seeing the WWI battlefields today is sober, somber, almost eerie. Armament still comes to the surface across French fields, as in other parts of Europe.

c
cmfrakes
Sep 29, 2016

I like how this was a fictional work based on a part of history I had never learned about in college. So I got to learn something new and do my own research on the topic. But the story was slow going, I didn't particularly like any of the characters, some parts seemed to drop off suddenly with incomplete conclusions. Not my favorite read but wouldn't tell somebody to skip it altogether, either.

Chapel_Hill_KatieJ Jul 23, 2015

The historical aspect of this book makes it worth reading. Before reading this book I didn’t know that during the Depression the US government sent Gold Star mothers to France to visit the graves of their sons killed during World War I. The book provides a fictionalized version of this journey, focusing on Party A, a group of 5 mothers with nothing in common other than that they are travelling from New England. The downside of this book is how some of the characters veered into being clichés. There is also a twist at the end of the book that seems ridiculous and rushed.

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maipenrai
Apr 22, 2014

** 1/2 stars In 1929 he United States Congress passed legislation to fund travel for mothers of the fallen soldiers of World War I to visit their sons? graves in France. Over the next three years, 6,693 Gold Star Mothers made the trip. This novel imagines the experience of five of these women. They are strangers at the start, but their lives will become inextricably intertwined and altered in indelible ways. These very different Gold Star Mothers travel to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery to say final good-byes to their sons and come together along the way to face the unexpected: a death, a scandal, and a secret revealed. None of these pilgrims will be as affected as Cora Blake, who has lived almost her entire life in a small fishing village off the coast of Maine, caring for her late sister?s three daughters, hoping to fill the void left by the death of her son, Sammy, who was killed on a scouting mission during the final days of the war. Cora believes she is managing as well as can be expected in the midst of the Depression, but nothing has prepared her for what lies ahead on this unpredictable journey, including an extraordinary encounter with an expatriate American journalist, Griffin Reed, who was wounded in the trenches and hides behind a metal mask, one of hundreds of ?tin noses? who became symbols of the war. **** I was unaware of this program for the mothers of soldiers lost in WWI before reading this book. I enjoy historically based novels. This book certainly had the potential to illuminate the horrors of trench warfare, the tremendous destruction of France, and the effects of loss on American mothers. It did this, but I think some of the power of the story was lost in side events such as a minor romance, a predatory officer and an unexpected death. It is sort of like adding a fictional romance to the story of the sinking of the Titanic because the traumatic loss of 1500 lives and the demonstrations of true love and sacrifice are not interesting enough to hold one's attention. I wish the author had kept her focus on the amazing true events concerning World War I. It is not a bad book, but I think Ms. Smith's work in television shows up in the sacrifice of heart and valuable historical knowledge for entertainment.

a
alamogordo
Apr 17, 2014

Wonderful book!

d
Daphne57
Mar 16, 2014

Each book written by April Smith gets better; the American Gold Star Mothers was a fact after WWI; the author developed a novel based on facts gathered by an Army officer who accompanied the mothers to the military cemeteries where their soldier children were buried. The outstanding character development makes the novel soar; it was breathtaking.

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