Review: We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman

Wednesday, 20 May 2015
Title: We Are All Made of Stars
Author: Rowan Coleman
Publisher: Ebury
Publication Date: 21st May 2015
Pages: 400
ISBN: 9780091951382
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon
Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to a soldier who has returned from Afghanistan injured in body and mind, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the secrets he brought home from the war.

During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones - some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain – and promises to post these messages after their deaths.

Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…

We Are All Made of Stars was my first Rowan Coleman read, but I have read a couple of her books published as Scarlett Bailey. I had very high expectations going into this book, knowing how much some of my favourite bloggers love Rowan's work, and the excitement for this book weeks before its release was palpable. I imagine it will be a great success.

Stella Carey is a hospice nurse, and she works the night shift because her soldier husband, Vincent, locks himself away every night, along with the secrets he brought home from Afghanistan. He is wounded physically and mentally, pushing Stella away and not understanding why she continues to love, care and want to be with him when he is so consumed by guilt. In the beginning we don't fully know why, but I'm sure most people will have a couple of theories. Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones - some full of humour, love and advice, others steeped in regret or pain and she passes on those letters after their deaths.

I am a fan of letter writing, as much as it is a dying art. I became a teenager not long after the internet became accessible to most of us, and remember the teenage girls in class having letter 'books' which when they got into the wrong hands wasn't a pretty picture. I even remember writing a couple myself in my teenage years, looking back now they make me cringe. But the thing about letters is how personal they are, I don't know what it is but it's so easy to be more open on paper than you ever would face to face. I suppose this continues with emails and texts but actual written words on a page carry so much more meaning.

Stella was such a wonderful character, warm, friendly and so believable. Her fears and emotions regarding her relationship with Vincent I think were so true to life that at times you could have been reading a factual account of somebody's life as opposed to a fictional story. This was also the case for the various letters dotted throughout the book, I would love to know how Rowan set about writing this book for example when were the letters written, who decided where they fitted into the story etc. The whole book just flows brilliantly and some of the letters are really thought-provoking. Vincent also felt like a real character, his emotions so raw and gut-wrenching. He was an intriguing man, one I think it would be impossible to ever be able to relate to or fully understand.

I can't really discuss in all that much detail but Vincent's progression over the course of the book was a highlight. The relationship between himself and Stella I desperately wanted to overcome everything and what I particularly liked was nothing ever felt predictable, there might have been ideas of how the book would eventually end, but it's never an easy road. Stella and Vincent are just two of the characters featured, but Rowan also includes various other characters, all of whom have their roles to play in the story. I was reminded whilst reading to not take life for granted, it's such a cliche I know, almost like the 'always listen in school'. Often we take the best advice when it's too late to do anything about it. I do anyway. I also took from this book never to take loved ones for granted, and if things appear tough then resilience, determination and love can overcome almost any obstacle.

Slight spoilers so read on at your own peril but Rowan definitely saves the best letter for last. It gave me goosebumps, almost made me cry but ultimately left me with that warm feeling inside that you get from finishing a book like this. It was such a beautiful, fitting ending and I'm so glad Rowan finished the story in the way that she did. We Are All Made of Stars is one of those rare books that will move every reader that picks it up, readers who will almost certainly be recommending this book to all of their family and friends. It's powerful and extremely emotive, a truly remarkable book with a story that will stick with me for a while yet.

5/5

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