The Silent Stars Go By

Written by Sally Nicholls
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

Yorkshire, England, 1919. Just after the end of World War I, nineteen-year-old Margot Allen is working in Durham as a typist but comes home to her family’s village vicarage for Christmas. She had been unofficially betrothed to soldier Harry Singer before the war, but when he went missing in action, she was left in an all-too-common predicament. Margot’s parents, while not happy that she was pregnant, were reasonably supportive and managed a subterfuge that meant they adopted Margot’s little boy as their own. Margot stayed away and went to work. Now little Jamie’s father has returned and must be told.

This story is bittersweet and hard to pigeonhole. The Christmas story in the charming village setting with the likeable Allens had me half-expecting a saccharine, happily-ever-after ending. That did not happen, and while the author leaves the resolution unclear, it does seem to wind the story up satisfactorily for all. There are strong components of the social problems and changes wrought by World War I. Women enter the workforce, returning soldiers deal with physical and emotional problems, and even happy, stable families struggle with the difficult realities of everyday life. This is a thoughtful story that does not follow any formula that I could see. I did not always like Margot, finding her self-centered, reckless, and headstrong, although it was easy to feel sympathy for her problems. I finished the book feeling as if I would like to read more by Sally Nicholls. If you’re on the fence, I’d give this a try.