Book Review & Giveaway: A Star for Mrs. Blake

A Star for Mrs. Blake
Published By: Knopf
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Page Count: 352
Buy it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult - Historical Fiction

I've been attempting to read more novels that have a connection to WWI lately because I want to learn more about the time period. WWI was always one of my least favorite time periods to study in my history courses; I always found WWII to be more interesting, but I am finding as an adult that I do enjoy learning about the WWI era. A Star for Mrs. Blake does discuss WWI, but it is largely a tale of women's history in the Great Depression as Americans still grapple with WWI's effects. Novels that give voice to those previously unheard are integral pieces of history.

A Star for Mrs. Blake focuses on several women who traveled to Europe to visit the graves of their children who were killed in The Great War. These trips were based on historical records that indicated that the U.S. government funded these trips so that mothers could have closure and see where their loved ones were laid to rest. Over 6,000 mothers make the trek. I had never heard of this event so I was instantly intrigued and wanted to know more.

The novel mainly focuses on Cora Blake, a Maine librarian and cannery worker, who lost her only son, Sammy, in the war. Cora makes the difficult decision to have Sammy buried in Europe rather than ship his body home. She decides after watching Theodore Roosevelt make the decision to have his son buried abroad that it is her patriotic duty to allow Sammy to rest among his comrades. I cannot imagine having to make such a devastating decision. 

The novel opens with Cora's daily existence in rural Maine. This is a state I have always longed to visit, but I am not sure I could have handled living there in the late 1920's and early 1930's. The winter weather would have worn on my nerves. I was instantly drawn into Cora's story. Things picked up even more once she gets to Europe and begins to interact with the other mothers. While I enjoyed Cora's story, I did find that there were some parts that dragged a bit more than others. I found myself reading faster in these parts so I could get to the segments that I enjoyed more.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time spend with this novel. A Star for Mrs. Blake is a well researched piece of historical fiction that is crafted with realistic characters, intense emotions, and beautiful settings.

One Last Gripe: There were moments when I was overwhelmed while reading this one. Some of the side stories derailed my focus and there were moments when the details seemed excessive.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: Learning about the Gold Star Mothers

First Sentence: Cora Blake was certainly not planning on going to Paris that spring.

Favorite Character: Cora

Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one.

The United States Congress in 1929 passed legislation to fund travel for mothers of the fallen soldiers of World War I to visit their sons’ graves in France. Over the next three years, 6,693 Gold Star Mothers made the trip. In this emotionally charged, brilliantly realized novel, April Smith breathes life into a unique moment in American history, imagining the experience of five of these women.

They are strangers at the start, but their lives will become inextricably intertwined, altered in indelible ways. These very different Gold Star Mothers travel to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery to say final good-byes to their sons and come together along the way to face the unexpected: a death, a scandal, and a secret revealed.

None of these pilgrims will be as affected as Cora Blake, who has lived almost her entire life in a small fishing village off the coast of Maine, caring for her late sister’s three daughters, hoping to fill the void left by the death of her son, Sammy, who was killed on a scouting mission during the final days of the war. Cora believes she is managing as well as can be expected in the midst of the Depression, but nothing has prepared her for what lies ahead on this unpredictable journey, including an extraordinary encounter with an expatriate American journalist, Griffin Reed, who was wounded in the trenches and hides behind a metal mask, one of hundreds of “tin noses” who became symbols of the war.

With expert storytelling, memorable characters, and beautiful prose, April Smith gives us a timeless story, by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, set against a footnote of history––little known, yet unforgettable.

About the Author:

April Smith has traveled to every location she writes about in her books, from the Dominican Republic to Siena, Italy, to Meuse-Argonne, France.  She takes pictures and talks to people and just wanders. Back home, she outlines the story on a white board, stepping back to see the whole, and then begins writing chapters, often out of order, according to what presents itself that day. It’s a process of both intuition and will that can take from two to twenty-five years, as was the case in A Star For Mrs. Blake.
Aside from her newest work of historical fiction, April is the author of the FBI Special Agent Ana Grey novels, a standalone thriller featuring a woman baseball scout, and is an Emmy-nominated writer and producer of dramatic series and movies for television.  She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Santa Monica, California.
(Source: Author's Website)

Sunday, January 12th:  Writer Unboxed  author guest post
Monday, January 13th:  BookNAround
Tuesday, January 14th:  A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, January 15th:  Cici’s Theories
Thursday, January 16th:  Bookchickdi
Monday, January 20th:  Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Tuesday, January 21st:  Drey’s Library
Wednesday, January 22nd:  Jorie Loves a Story
Monday, January 27th:  Book Snob
Monday, February 3rd:  Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, February 4th:  The Lost Entwife
Wednesday, February 5th:  Books and Movies
Tuesday, February 11th:  Savvy Verse and Wit
Wednesday, February 12th:  Library of Clean Reads
Monday, February 17th:  Reading Lark

We have ONE copy of A Star for Mrs. Blake up for grabs!

Here's the giveaway details:
* You must be 18+ years of age
* You must be a Reading Lark follower
* You must live in the US 
* You must fill out the Rafflecopter form

Giveaway runs from February 17-24. The winner will be announced on February 25. The winner will be contacted via email.


  1. I love reading about history especially during the war periods. There has been books that focus mainly on the Civil War and WWII. Reading about WWI would be great just to get a feel of how this war impact people society. Thanks for the giveaway.

  2. The review made me want to read the book.

  3. What an excellent idea for a story. I can only begin to imagine how emotional the actual events of those trips must have been. Thanks.

  4. I'm like you - I didn't enjoy this time period when I was in school but I really like it now!

    Thanks for being on the tour.


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