Cover Image: The Silent Stars Go By

The Silent Stars Go By

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This is a really sweet love story, set during first world war and covers  the story around the secret pregnancy, the shame around her having a child is very sad. While parts are quite sad, the way Sally has written this is really thoughtful and moving. I thought that the epilogue was a lovely touch.  This book covered a really important topic around unwed mothers in the early 20th century and is something not often covered in YA books, a wonderful addition and great for readers of YA or older

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
Was this review helpful?
It is 1919 and Margot is returning home to her father's vicarage for Christmas. She has been living away from her family while training as a typist and living in a boarding house, but we quickly find out this is not entirely by choice. Margot left the family home not out of ambition but because she had baby out of wedlock, and her parents sent her away to disguise her condition before raising the baby as their own. She is still part of the family but feels a distance from her parents and doesn't understand how to act around her son, who they pretend is her baby brother. Harry, her fiancé, is just back from the war, and he doesn't know why she never wrote to him, and Margot can't bring herself to tell him the truth. 

The flashbacks to the summer Margot and Harry got engaged are gorgeous and that in itself would have made for a beautiful romance novel, but I am glad Nicholls looked further ahead to how many women's stories looked when their boyfriends or fiancés went to war, when the consequences of unmarried sex fell squarely with them even if they had a committed partner, as they were far away and may not return. The shame surrounding Margot's "mistake" is sometimes hard to read, and I was glad the novel didn't dwell too much on her time in the mother and baby home (which brings up even more unpleasant images for an Irish reader like myself). However it's clear that while her parents acted badly they did love her and wanted to help in their own way by protecting her reputation and raising her child as their own. The relationships within the family, the different siblings and the parents are all really believable, so it is also a lovely story about families as well as romantic love.

This is a really sweet love story, but the backdrop of the fallout of the first world war and particularly the shame and secrecy around her having a child is very sad. While subject matter is quite sad, but the way it is written and handled is really thoughtful and moving This is a great book for young (or older) adults and I think Sally Nicholls writes brilliantly about this era - I would also recommend Things A Bright Girl Can Do by the same author.
Was this review helpful?
I received a digital review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I am leaving this review voluntarily.

The Silent Stars go by is a historical fiction set just after the end of the first world war. Before the war, 17-year-old Margot Allan was a vicar daughter, and appropriately respectable, madly in love with her fiance Harry. When war hit, Harry was reported Missing in Action on the front, and Margot realised she was expecting his child. To keep Margot’s reputation, she gave up her baby son, James, to be raised by her parents as their own. Two years late, the whole family is meeting for Christmas, and being so close to James but him not knowing who she is heartbreaking for Margot. Then Margot finds out that Harry is back in the village for Christmas too, having been released from captivity in Germany. Harry wants answers: why had Margot broken off their engagement and stopped replying to his letters. But Margot doesn’t know whether she can tell Harry the truth about James.

I did really enjoy reading this book, and there were definitely points where I identified with Margot. Her nervousness and indecision were things I have struggled with, even if not the reason for them.

I think that the epilogue was a nice touch at the end of the book, but I did find myself wishing that there had been a greater description of how Margot had got to that point.

The book covered a really important topic around unwed mothers in the early 20th century, and I really liked the way Margot’s plight around her son was written.

While I was reading this, I got the feeling that the book was aimed at readers who were the same age as Margot, at either 17 or 19 years. However, the style of the writing seemed less complex than I would expect from a book for this age group. The subject matter seemed like it fitted this age group too, as it is quite a deep and complex subject matter.

I found some portions of the book to be irritating in their historical inaccuracies, particularly regarding fashions. Although this is an area that I am particularly interested in, so it may not both other readers as much as it did me.

Overall, I did enjoy reading The Silent Stars Go By, but for me, there was something that didn’t quite click. I think that people who have enjoyed other books by Sally Nicholls, and young adult historical fiction may enjoy this book.

Thanks again to Netgalley and the publisher, Anderson Press, for my review copy.
Was this review helpful?
I read this story over Christmas which I think added to the impact of the story, which was gentle but emotionally complex. Margot and her young fiancé Harry, are separated by the First World War. When he is declared missing in action, a devastated Margot must face the fact she is pregnant with his child and he might never come home. A vicar’s daughter, Margot agrees to let her son be brought up as her parent’s child to avoid the stigma of an illegitimate child in their small sheltered village. I was caught up in Margot’s emotions as she watches the son of a man she loved brought up as her brother. Her mum now receives the adoration a small boy has for his mother, and Margot has to hide her jealousy and the overwhelming love she feels for little James. There’s a deeply felt grief at the loss of being his mother. The tension can become difficult at times although the family secret has not been exposed. This is a very close family, lying to each other for what they believe is the best of intentions. 
This Christmas, Harry returns, Now Margot faces a huge dilemma, does she leave things as they are or does she divulge the secret? Her excitement at seeing him is now tinged with tension and lies, so she cannot truly enjoy it. She has avoided his letters too, once she found out he was alive, for fear of their deception coming to light. How can she tell him he has a son he can never admit to. I loved the quietness of the book, full of silences pregnant with emotion and longing, In the background is the aftermath of the war itself. We see in Margot’s brother the way his war experience has left him unable to settle back into normal life or keep a job. However alongside all of this is a whisper of hope, as for the first time since the war has ended there are enough men back in the village to ring the Christmas bells, An quiet, emotional story that I really enjoyed.
Was this review helpful?
A quick and easy read that I found myself picking up after a long day to unwind. The characters are beautifully written and I came to love them within the first few pages and was rooting for them all the way to the end. At times I wanted to stop reading because I just wanted the experience to go on for longer. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
There is such a gentle beauty to this book. It documents just a few days in one family over the Christmas period in 1919, with the shadow of war and pandemic hovering over them, all the more poignant this year. The main character, Margot, is torn between different worlds and potential futures, all the while trying to keep the people she loves close and happy.
Was this review helpful?
The Silent Stars Go By is a historical fiction book set in 1919. Margot is 19 and going home for the first time in some time. It's the first Christmas with the whole family since the war and Margot is really dreading it. Her (former?) fiancé, Harry, is back from the war after having been missing in combat and presumed dead for some time. He's been contacting her for a little while but she's been scared and hasn't responded. See, Margot got pregnant right before Harry went missing and gave the baby to her parents to raise... She's torn about how to explain, if she should tell him and how to act around her son, James. It's just all a mess and she's really not doing well.

When I requested this book on netgalley, I didn't think twice. I saw Sally Nicholls and didn't even read the summary. I read Things a Bright Girl Can Do a couple years ago and loved loved loved it. So this was no brainer.
When I finally did read the summary, I was a little disappointed, it wasn't was I expected and it didn't really sound like my thing. Obviously, I'm an idiot and I was wrong. I should have trust in Sally Nicholls. She really brought the characters and the scenery to life. I really felt like I was at the vicarage, in the village in 1919. I felt for Margot. So much. I just wanted to hug her from beginning to end. We really had very little in common but I still felt like I understood her... It's even more impressive how much this book made me feel considering how short it was. I read it in less than " hours... in one sitting.
It really is going to stay with me for a while and makes look forward to reading more from Sally Nicholls.
Was this review helpful?
Margot has been in love with Harry ever since his family moved to their village. As a vicar’s daughter Margot knows certain expectations are held for her, so it is something of a shock to learn that nineteen year old Margot is actually the mother of a toddler. The father, Harry, went missing in action and doesn’t know he has a child. 
Worried about the social implications of having a child when unmarried, Margot’s parents engineer events so that they adopt the child and he is raised as their own. Now nineteen, Margot wonders how she can reconcile her thoughts and feelings with her sense of duty.
The story is quite a familiar one, so I’m assuming this is a foray into the context for younger readers.
We see things through Margot’s eyes and, in the main, it’s all a little superficial. I would have liked to know a little more of Harry’s thoughts upon learning the truth, and for a family so worried about what others would think of them there was little to indicate this was necessary. The elder brother suffering was also somewhat glossed over.
I felt sympathy for the experience of all those involved, but it never really developed in a way that made me feel overly engaged. I’m sure, however, that younger readers of those who don’t know much about this period in history will fall under the spell of Margot and her family and wonder how things were ever like this.
Was this review helpful?
A beautifully written YA story of a pregnant teenager whose partner is Missing  In Action in WW1, so her only choice is to give her baby up for adoption. Compelling characters and a wonderful storyline, I enjoyed it and think it will be a great addition to school libraries and teenage collections for years to come
Was this review helpful?
This is such an important book, that attempts to show the attitudes that people had to unmarried mothers in the early 1900s. Margot's fiancee goes to war, and after she learns she is pregnant, receives a letter than changes everything - he's missing in action. I really enjoyed this story, but looking back on it I can think of multiple problems.

We know that Harry comes back, it's stated in the blurb. However his arrival is met with little fanfare, it was more, 'oh he's back now also he just did a bit of farming in Germany or something'. We never really got more than surface level with Harry, compared to Margot's brother who came home with severe emotional trauma, unable to settle into a regular job.

I found Margot both relatable and frustrating. I fully understood her difficulty to connect with her son, but felt that as she grew up with siblings she should have had a better understanding of how younger kids work, it was like she had never been around a child before. And her constant "I should tell Harry no I won't tell Harry I should tell him" because monotonous and annoying.

This book is supposed to be about the attitudes people have to unmarried mothers, but never really went as far as showing us that. All we got was Margot's own thoughts about it, we never saw any criticism or prejudice from the village. Overall, this was a good story, I was just looking for a lot more depth.
Was this review helpful?
The Silent Stars Go By is a beautiful YA historical story about Margot, and the baby she gave up when her fiancé Harry is declared missing in action during the First World War. Now Harry has returned for Christmas, a different man to the boy who went to war, and Margot must decide whether to risk telling him the truth. 

This was a quiet story in many ways, yet packed an emotional punch. Margot, at seventeen, feels a lot older than her years. One of five children to a vicar, she's grown up sheltered in a small village, yet has already faced one of the hardest decisions of her life. Her son, James, is now raised by Margot's parents and sees them as his mother and father. There's jealousy on Margot's part, and an unconditional love she can't show James in front of others incase it risks exposing her secret. There's grief, a loss that she can never be to James what she wants to be. She's grieving for a life she can never have. It leads to a difficult relationship between Margot and all her family, with all of them on tenterhooks at times, although it's clear that all the siblings are close. 

Her relationship with Harry feels realistic and tinged with tension. She's anxious about seeing him, after shunning his letters in finding out he's still alive. How can she possibly tell him he has a son, but it's a son he can never admit he has? Every conversation is tinged with sadness and longing, furtive looks and loaded comments. They're never left on their own, adding to this building of tension between them. A few times I was desperate for Margot to just tell Harry the truth. 

The book also does a good job at tackling the issues of PTSD for returning soldiers. The plot of Margot's eldest brother returning to the family for Christmas after time at the front sits in the background of the story with comments about how he can no longer keep down a job, or feel like life is worth anything. It's just one example of how life has irreversibly changed for everyone because of the war - like the fact that there aren't enough eligible men anymore. The bells ringing for the first time in years to ring in Christmas morning was a particularly poignant scene, as the family had forgotten the constant peel of the bells to mark important events. With the return of men from the war, there's finally enough of them to ring the bells again. It marked a new beginning. 

Beautifully written story, with a plot that quietly draws the reader in with its relatable and complicated characters and exploration of post war Britain from a teenager's perspective.
Was this review helpful?
I love YA fiction books and I’ve read loads but I’d never read a YA historical fiction until now. 
Wow, I loved it! It gives you all the feel and grabs your heart. This one is a definite must read
Was this review helpful?
This historical YA fiction really tugged at my heart strings more than I expected it to. 
I don't often read historical novels, however the YA format meant that the writing was less dense and therefore more easy going and quick to read. 

The premise of this book really called to me. I usually prefer more hard hitting contemporary/historical fiction and this one did not disappoint. Dealing with being a single mother in the early 1900s must have been horrific for the mother, to be treated with so much scorn and disgust from the wider community. Regardless of it being none of their business. We've come a long way from this in today's world but I definitely felt that there are still some old preconceptions of single parenthood that pop up here and there. 
Living in Ireland, and the horror of the mother and baby homes and the despicable acts committed by the catholic church coming to light, this is a topic I feel so strongly about. There was so much suffering that still hasn't been accounted or apologised for and people (including the church) continues to try brush it under the rug. 

You grow to feel so much for Margot. How she internalises so much shame and having to live with the self-hatred and doubt over whether or not she did the best thing for her child. 

This was a relatively small book which didn't have a wide ranging plot. It felt more of a quiet story centring on a family coping through multiple types and stages of grief, not long after the first World War in the English countryside.  I say this is a quiet book, but it still packs so much emotion into a  relatively short amount of pages. It's more of a snapshot into this family's life over the few days running up to Christmas. 

I have to say I was rooting for Margot and Harry the whole way through this story, which, at times, made it frustrating when on, so many occasions the couple were thwarted from getting to talk things out. This just became too repetitive for me and the main reason why I rated it lower. Tying into this were some of Margot's actions that worked against herself in a way. When she didn't write to him even after she discovered he had survived the war and was no longer missing in action. There's no way I could imagine doing this so I disliked reading from a character's perspective where they thought that this was ok. It came across as cowardly. She had an absolute horrible time, yes, but she was not the only person to have a child. And being POW was hardly a walk in the park either, I imagine. 

Despite the war being such a frequent topic mentioned throughout this book it isn't a war book. It very much focuses on the conflicting emotions of giving up a child or being forced to give up a child. And consequently, how does one carry on as normal after that? 
The fact that Margot's family took her son, James, in, in this instance, adds another tension and conflict to the story. 
Margot loves her family but it shreds her to pieces to see her mother caring for James where she is not much more than a stranger who visits now and then. 

This reminded me a little of Juno Dawson's Margot and Me. If you were a fan of that then I suggest giving this novel a go.
Was this review helpful?
The characters really come alive in this book. The family interactions are spot on. Lovely Christmas setting. There is much internal wrangling of Margot as she plays over what she should do, which seems to be fitting for one so young dealing with such big decisions snd their consequences.
Was this review helpful?
Beautiful story. As a mother I truly felt for Margot, I cannot imagine how much hurt and turmoil she was going through. I enjoyed her interactions with her siblings and mother but the best parts were with Harry, James and towards the end, her father, finding her place within the family as she transitioned from child to adulthood. She is trying to keep everyone happy and thinking of others at the expense of herself at times. I did feel the ending was rather abrupt and I was left a little unsatisfied. It is the sort of ending where if you know there will be a follow-up you can placate yourself, but, as a stand alone it is quite vague and open for interpretation. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book and read it within a couple of days as I couldn't wait to find out what was next! I would definitely recommend to anyone that enjoys historical, real-life, family/romance fiction.
Was this review helpful?
"It's not really something you can talk about to anyone [...] everyone else can be happy...and normal... and you can't because you carry this awful weight around everywhere. And you can't ever put it down or talk about it, so you're always pretending to be something you aren't".

Secrets are in everyone's family. Some might be harder to bear than others.

In this novel, we follow a young girl called Margot just as WW1 is coming to an end. She is quite lost but as her fiancé comes back from the war, things change. But her secret remains...

A short but powerful novel. It left me wanting more but still gave me plenty of good vibes as it's set during the festive season.
I really felt for Margot and the difficult choices she had to make and I'm sure you would too.

Can't say more without revealing anything so I'll leave it at that!


Thank you to @Netgalley and @andersonpress for this e-book in return for my honest review. The book is out now!
Was this review helpful?
Sally Nicholls' latest historical YA is set in the aftermath of the First World War. Margot Allan, a vicar's daughter, discovered she was pregnant after her fiancé Harry was reported missing in action. Two years later, Margot's parents are bringing up her son James as their own and Harry has returned to their village in time for Christmas. What kind of future can Margot expect with James and with Harry? I loved Nicholls' YA suffragette novel, Things A Bright Girl Can Do; this is, intentionally, a much simpler and more straightforward story. Nicholls warmly evokes the atmosphere of the village at Christmastime, as well as the heady flashbacks to Margot and Harry's summer romance. She brings the Allan family vividly to life despite their brief page-time, and we do really care about and root for the characters. Margot's central dilemma isn't developed as subtly over the course of the novel as it might have been, so her internal monologue becomes quite repetitive at times, and the book stalls a bit in the middle. Nevertheless, this is a cozy, lovely read that I'm sure will appeal to adults as well as teenagers. 3.5 stars.
Was this review helpful?
The most gorgeous book filled with romance, complicated family dynamics and a festive charm that hugs you and won't let you go until the final page.
Was this review helpful?