The Stars in the Night

Written by Clare Rhoden
Review by Valerie Adolph

In 1970 Kate is going through her grandparents’ house sorting through fifty years of memories. Her grandmother Nora has recently died. Her grandfather, Harry Fletcher, is lost in his memories, taking long walks in the Australian sun and trying to ignore Kate’s questions about a diary marked Volume One when she could find no Volume Two or Three.

The time shifts back to December 1914. Young Harry has enlisted to join the Australian army fighting in World War One. With him is Eddie, actually not a relation but a street child taken in and raised by his parents and even closer to Harry than Harry’s own brothers. Together they see action in Gallipoli and France. Together Harry and Eddie face all the horrors of World War One trench warfare until Eddie is lost in the fighting. Lost, without trace. Harry searches for him following every possible avenue knowing as time passes he must be dead, yet never losing hope.

After the war Harry, injured and disfigured, returns to Australia to marry the girl he loves and to face the shocked reactions when people see his badly scarred face. But the scars of war go far deeper, and Harry must surrender his independence to allow Nora to face his scars, physical and mental, with him.

We are accustomed to reading about horrific deaths and injuries in World War One, but this novel takes us further—to the suffering that follows. Not just that of the wounded but the pain of those around them, the struggles of family and friends to accept the unacceptable, to patch together damaged lives. This is a deeply felt novel exploring uncomfortable truths. It’s also a reminder that Australian troops played a significant role in fighting two world wars. A worthwhile read from a new writer.