A Star for Mrs. Blake

A Star for Mrs. Blake

by April Smith
4.0 21

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A Star for Mrs. Blake 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is rare that a book enlightens, entertains and informs at every turn of the page. Kudos to Ms. Smith for sharing Cora's journey with us. I was drawn into the pilgrimage. A very touching yet uplifting book.
blixen1 More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book.  I had never heard about the Gold Star mother's and their pilgrimage before and this story really brings it to light.  You will not be disappointed with this purchase.
irishclaireKG More than 1 year ago
Good Potential--But Falls Apart. I really wanted to like this novel more than I did. The back story of the Gold Star mothers is worth a book, but I think the subject needs a better one than this. The novel starts with great promise, exposing a mostly forgotten part of history: the Gold Star mothers of fallen WWI sons. The women depicted, who make the journey to see where their sons fell--and where some are buried--are intriguing--showing their broad socioeconomic backgrounds and the blatant prejudice, sexism, and underhanded politics that lurk in every corner. However, some of the characters are quite stereotypical and a couple of the most interesting are given stories that just disappear or end up with loose ends, more questions than answers. But perhaps my greatest disappointment is that by halfway through, events become horribly melodramatic, predictable, and ultimately end with a situation that left me rolling my eyes and muttering, 'Oh come on.' For a look at a slice of history most of us know little or nothing about, it is not a bad introduction, but for a really compelling look at unique characters, this just did not do it for me at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful characters. Fascinating setting. Based on true historical events. Another excellent book on the NOOK is "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. It also has strong female characters and is based on actual historical events. Both books deserve A++++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have always loved the Ana Grey mystery novels penned by April Smith. Therefore, I was a little dubious about her detour into the world of historical fiction. My worries were unfounded. A STAR FOR MRS. BLAKE is a marvelous read with engaging characters, some heart-stopping action scenes, and a wealth of historical information about the 1930s. Cora Blake is a remarkable heroine who will not soon be forgotten by the reader. April Smith is a marvelous writer and her book is a great tribute to those who have served nobly in the military services.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I tried so hard to like this book, to become immersed in the story line and the plight of the characters, but I couldn't sustain interest. Maybe because the author took too long to get to the point of the book, maybe because the characters were flat and stereotyped, maybe because the dialogue was stiff and boring, but whatever the problem, I could not finish this book. When I have to force myself to continue reading, when getting deeper into a book is no longer enjoyable, I know it is time to find something else to read. I wasted time and money on this disappointing book that had little depth or substance..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm glad I read this book as it covered a subject I knew nothing about:  the pilgrimages of Gold Star mothers, who had lost their sons in WWI, to the foreign cemeteries where they had been buried.  I felt, though, that this book could have been so much more than it was.   Rather than focusing on the emotional journey of the mothers, it took twist and turns that added little to the main story.  Several of the characters were never well developed but remained stereotypes (the immigrant Irish woman, resentful of the wealthy employees for whom she works, the Jewish mother, a woman who is emotionally disturbed) .  It  took a long time to actually get to the trip itself and I didn't truly feel the impact this pilgrimage should have had on these characters.  So I am glad for the exposure to this topic but disappointed in the scattered, rather superficial way the author covered it.
IEB More than 1 year ago
The book was a fast read. The author depicted and described the characters quite well. The subject matter was poignant for we continue to personally experience the effects of war and the loved ones we have lost.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book! I had been doing genealogy and found a picture of a WWI solder in uniform who turned out to be a cousin. His mother and my great great grandmother were sisters. His brother died in the war.. one month to the day before the war ended. His mother was invited to go to France where he was buried,, the meuse Argonne Cem. but coul dnot go because of old age and health, evidently.. So I was soo thrilled to read all about the pilgrimage even though it was a novel.. It was a wonderful read and kept me involved every page!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
booknerdDS More than 1 year ago
When I started this book, "A Star For Mrs. Blake" by April Smith I anticipated that because of the content matter it would be very emotionally heavy. Cora Blake is faced with the task not only of having lost her child to war, a devastating occurrence in itself, but of deciding if she should have her son buried in her hometown next to her family members. Cora is not an overly emotional person, through her we see everyday occurrences but these occurrences are not burdened with emotion. At first I found her to be cold but as the story unraveled and the stories of other characters became a part of the common loss that they all shared this lack of emotional devastation made the loss more tolerable. There was one quote that cemented all elements of the story and that, I thought, really provided a wonderful insight to Cara, " Mrs. Roosevelt and I have always believed that where the tree falls, there let it lay." (p.14) I really enjoyed that this was really a story focused on the historical events of the time. The author really provided a lot of great information about not only what was happening historically but how people thought. There was a very authentic feel to how all these characters viewed their life and the sense of duty that they had. Although they were all dealing with sadness, loss and pain there was a stoicism and a sense of "this is what it is" that gave great insight to the dedication families felt when their children enlisted to become soldiers. All though Cora and the other "Gold Star Mothers" are bonded by grief that did not mean they all became fast friends. There were moments of friction as these very different woman make a journey to France to visit their fallen soldiers-their sons. I really enjoyed this story and found it to be very insightful to the time period. I also really loved that the author focused on this opportunity that the U.S Congress provided for mothers of fallen soldiers. I feel like reading this book was very rewarding.
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wordsandpeace More than 1 year ago
Very powerful novel reflecting on many facets of international conflicts. Highly recommended to anyone curious to know what happened on the field of WWI, and how it affected people, relationships, and countries. In 1929, American mothers of soldiers fallen during WWI in France were offered a free trip to allow them to visit the graves of their sons. In A Star For Mrs. Blake, April Smith recounts this trip through the portrayal of 5 of these Gold Star Mothers. To do so, she based her inspiration on the Diary of Colonel Thomas Hammond, who did accompany such a group of pilgrims. Hammond is in the novel, under his real name, and just as in life, this adventure changed the course of his military career. The book starts slowly, with the description of Cora Blake’s daily life in Maine, in a small city living mostly from the sea. This slow beginning helps to understand who Cora is, and how she dealt with her grief of losing her boy during WWI. It also highlights the difference between her milieu and the persons and sites she will discover during her trip to France. I highly enjoyed this book, which touches on so many major themes around war and its effects, though not in an overwhelming way. - grief of course, and how each woman lives it differently, from serene but sad acceptance, to insanity. There are very powerful scenes when the mothers finally arrive in the cemetery in chapter 16. The author also portrays very well how grief colors and modifies relationship between people. - disability, with the character of a journalist - destruction, with incredible descriptions of Verdun. The women, some coming from an affluent American high society, are shocked to discover what war did to this city, which has barely started reconstruction in 1929. The mothers, coming really from protective naive milieus (compared to what the French just had to go through) are also shocked at discovering the reality of collaboration during the war. - ever present problem of unexploded grenades and bombs. The scene when a Gold Star Mother comes upon an unexploded bomb in the book is so true to life, so well rendered. Lots of other themes fascinated me in this book. For instance diversity. The theme was so well treated, with the beautiful relationship developing between the black mother and the other ladies in her group who totally accepted her among them, just as any mother having sacrificed her son for the sake of peace, but how the system intervened and messed up everything. In relation to this theme and others, the army definitely does not come out too well in this book. No surprise for me here. There’s an awesome passage on the futility of war in chapter 22. And there’s also social diversity, and how women form totally different social backgrounds interact. And national diversity and relationships, with quite revealing scenes between Americans, French, and Germans. In some French regions today, especially among older generations, you still can feel this is not neutral ground. I also liked other things surrounding Cora’s life at home, her inner debate about possibly starting a new life, and a very special person she met at the end of her trip. I think the author did an amazing job at dealing with highly emotional topics without ever falling into the teary or over gruesome style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book for book clubs, friends, anyone. The story gives one a glimpse of what times and WWI must have been like. It is sad, realistic, heartwarming.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
As a young child in the late 60s- early 70s, I can remember walking to school and passing by a house that had a gold star in the window. When I asked my mom what that meant, she told me that the woman who lived in that house lost a son in the war. It always made me sad thinking about that mom and her son. April Smith's new historical novel, A Star For Mrs. Blake, tells the story of Cora Blake, a woman who lost her only son in battle in France during WWI. She has had a tough existence since then, losing her mother and sister, and moving in with her brother-in-law to care for him and his three daughters. The Great Depression has hit the coastal rural area of Maine particularly hard, and Cora scrapes by working occasionally at a fish canning manufacturer, difficult dirty work that pays little. Her saving grace is volunteering at the local library, which would not be open if not for Cora. She has a beau, a geologist who wants to marry her. An opportunity arises where certain Gold Star mothers whose sons were buried overseas can go to France to visit their sons' graves, located in a big military cemetery. Cora jumps at the chance and in her small group are Katie, an Irish working woman who lost two sons, Minnie, a Jewish woman, Wilhemina, whom they discover spent time in an asylum, and Bobbie, a wealthy Boston socialite. Lt. Tom Hammond is their military escort, along with Lily, a young nurse from Chicago. The women, who come from such different places, do not always get along and have more than a few skirmishes. Along the way, Cora meets Griffin Reed, a war journalist who was severely injured in battle and now has a tin mask covering part of his face and a morphine addiction. (Anyone who has watched HBO's Boardwalk Empire will understand about the mask, worn by WWI vet Richard Harrow in the show.) Cora and Griffin become friends, perhaps because they both are hiding behind a disguise- Reed behind his mask and Cora behind a lie she has been living with for many years. I liked the growing relationship between these two people. The women are taken from place to place in France, and soon strafe living under the military rules they have been forced to follow. Seeing these women who, once away from their husbands and families, become stronger and bond together is satisfying and learning more about their home situations is interesting. There are some secrets discovered along the way, and I admit that I found at least one incident at the end of the book a little too soap opera for my taste, but overall I really enjoyed this book. The mixing of politics and military is also an intriguing aspect of this book. Reading books based on historical facts interest me, and in the acknowledgements Smith shares her real life inspirations for her fascinating book. I had never heard about these Gold Star mother pilgrimages and will be looking for more information on them. Fans of Sarah Blake's The Postmistress and Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone (who also had a protagonist named Cora) will find much to like here, with women who, once away from home, find something in themselves they may not have known existed.