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26th May 2014 – Book Review : Written in the Stars by Ali Harris

written in the stars

four and a half

There are a very few books that delve deep into the reader’s psyche and emotions and strike a chord deep within the reader’s heart. Ali Harris’s Written in the Stars manages to do just that. Let me say at this point that I am not someone who is generally very emotional….I don’t cry when I watch a soppy film nor do I go weak-kneed with emotion when I see puppies, kittens and babies….you get the gist, however, even I shed a tear when I read this book.

‘Written in the stars’ is about Bea Bishop and Adam Hudson and a bevy of amazing supporting characters and what is truly unique about this tale is it asks the question that all of us have asked ourselves at one point or the other, ‘If I had chosen to do things differently, would my life have been the same?’ Thus, with this theme in mind, the author rather brilliantly takes us down two routes, one where Bea and Adam get married and start to pursue a wedded life together and the other where Bea, after sighting a long lost ex boyfriend in the crowd of her wedding guests, decides to make a runner for it and desert her groom on their wedding day.

Let me congratulate Ali at this point for writing two stories within one book with such conviction and clarity, no mean feat indeed. At no point whatsoever in the book did I confuse one story with the other and the credit goes entirely to the author for laying down the demarcations within the two stories and gently guiding the reader through both the tales as they unfold. I have my own personal favourite amongst the two intersecting tales, but I would encourage you to read the book to find your own favourite.

Bea is a very complicated soul. Her father abandoned her on her seventh birthday and she never quite gets over the sense of abandonment that this event caused within her. Bea is hugely talented as an aspiring garden designer, something she inherited from her father but she has been unable to commit to her talent, dropping out of her Garden Design degree in the second year and doing various jobs for a temp agency as an adult. Added to this, a tragic incident in the past involving her, her ex Keiran and his twin brother Elliot has haunted her throughout her adult life for which she has never gotten closure.

Her  husband / fiance Adam has his own emotional baggage to deal with. A scion of a wealthy and successful family, Adam always feels that he is under the shadow of his larger than life, charismatic father who built his business up from scratch and who expects his son to work with the same dogged determination and obsession as himself. Adam struggles with this as he has always had decisions made for him and his life and career planned for him by his parents. He wants to break free but feels trapped. Bea is the one thing in his life that feels true.

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, switching back and forth amongst the two story lines and the experiences and indeed, the adventures Bea had exploring the differences in fate that the two different decisions brought to her life. On the one hand, when Bea gets married to Adam, they are together but Bea hardly gets to see or spend time with her husband because her husband is too busy pleasing his father by throwing his heart, body and soul into growing the family business. Although Bea gets a chance to explore her creative side by getting a chance to temp at a Garden Design consultancy as a PA and ultimately design the offices for Adam’s father’s company, she gets very little love, time or attention from her husband.

On the other end of the spectrum, when Bea leaves Adam, she gets a chance to explore what she really wants in life and also revisits her past to gain the closure that she so desperately needs. She kicks in her temping job and almost by accident gets a job that she loves at a local florist. Keiran, her ex who promised to return but never did, also plays a key role and Bea fights against strong feelings for him and manages to make a decision with regards to their relationship which is true to her own heart. She also finally finds and meets her father who had been missing from her life and draws her own conclusions on why he had made the decisions that had affected her and her family’s life so drastically.

I loved all the characters in this novel: Bea , the flawed but strong heroine. Adam, a real man with real flaws but a beautiful and genuine heart. Milly, the longstanding best friend, loyal and generous to a fault and unswervingly reliable. Loni, Bea’s hippie, self help, guru mother who is very loveable but only as the novel draws to a close does the reader start to appreciate her strength of character. Cal, the supportive, strong brother whose love and concern for his sister is touching.

Although the novel has its light-hearted moments, serious themes are present as the topic of depression is explored. I also thought that gardening and garden design is interwoven beautifully in the novel in form of Bea’s father’s diary and the way it intersperses with the story throughout.

Readers will love this novel, for the beauty of the two interlinked stories, the depth of the characters and for the brilliance of the author’s story-telling. Ultimately they will love it for the beautiful fairy tale ending that we all  want and wait for.

Indeed, after reading the book, you will be tempted to ask, ‘So, regardless of what we do, are we meant to have the same fate?’

Read this novel, you will definitely not regret it…. ‘Written in the Stars’ is out on 5th of June 2014, being published by Simon & Schuster UK

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