The Lost History of Stars

Fourteen-year-old Lettie Venter--imprisoned in a British concentration camp in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War--treasures memories of happier days, like stargazing with her grandfather. Now, the men in her family are fighting the British for their land, settled by her Dutch forebears and now coveted for diamond and gold deposits. The Lost History of Stars is Lettie's heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and Dave Boling's (Guernica) unsparing prose portrays the tragedy of innocents caught in the horrors of war.

Lettie's first-person account, which reads like the journal she faithfully keeps, begins in 1900, the day "Tommies" ride into their yard, threaten her and her family, and ransack their farm. It happens quickly, yet agonizingly: "Half an hour by the clock... a week's worth of heartbeats... a lifetime's tears." When their crammed cart arrives at the concentration camp, children "were already sickened by a disease whose name I had never heard" after drinking from mud puddles on the arduous journey. The narrative then goes back a year, before the men in her family were called up to fight, followed by the months after their drafting, when women and children tended the farm.

Surrounded by starvation, sickness and death in the camp, Lettie is nevertheless a typical adolescent. She and her family exhibit bravery and tenacity throughout their tribulation. "It was only when everything was taken away that you got to see what was at your core." Lettie's coming of age in these horrific circumstances is a tribute to grit and family love. Dave Boling writes a historically accurate novel of war's innocent victims. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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