Cover Image: The Lost History of Stars

The Lost History of Stars

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Member Reviews

Fascinating look at a historical part of South Africa that I was unfamiliar with. This novel was extremely well written and pulled me right in as a reader. I appreciated being able to read and review the advanced reader’s copy.
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A novel about the women and children left behind and then imprisoned during the Boer War in South Africa. A good story about a time and place often neglected.
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Just wasn't in the right mindset when I started this one. Had a hard time connecting to the story & just wasn't interested in it at all. Not for me, I guess!
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Thank you for the chance to read this book. I don't have too much to say other than that I've never read a book about that time and that place and I think it's an important book to keep in mind if you're looking for any sort of historical fiction at all.
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A powerful historical novel about the Boer War, a time and place we don't often get to read about. Bold, emotional writing from the perspective of a young girl, written beautifully. A tough but necessary read.
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It took a little while to really engage with this read, but once I did I could not put it down. I love historical fiction and learning details about periods and places that I am unfamiliar with. This book was eye-opening to a time and place I knew very little about, and was also beautifully written. Heartbreaking at times, I felt the author conveyed the complexity of emotions through rich characters incredibly well.
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Beautiful writing style. Elegant but raw. Real human emotion on every page. I could see the story happening in my mind as I read. Vivid description and character development. I felt like I knew the characters and could feel their reactions to events in the book. It was my first time reading a book about the Boer wars. Learned so much. Love when fiction books give great historical information. What a fun way to learn history. Great book. Don't pass it by. 
Received a digital copy from netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.
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The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling begins on the day that fourteen year Lettie lost her home. British soldiers come in and torch their houses and then send the family to a concentration camp where they all live in a tent shared with another family. The story is mostly set in the camp. We get to see the kind of life that the Afrikaners live there. There are a few chapters that contain flashbacks of life before the camp.

Lottie is the main character and narrator for this story. She is young, barely a teen but forced to adjust to a different life. I really liked her character. First of all, she is a bookworm. Even in the camp, Lottie still found a way to get lost in books. She was quite strong despite her circumstances. I sympathized with her due to what she was going through. Lottie was at a sensitive age, learning about boys, womanhood but experiencing these things in the midst of the chaos that was the camp life. The story was heartbreaking. Needless to say, life at the camp was hard. The living conditions were terrible. So many people died especially the kids.

Through Lettie, we get to meet different characters. I really liked her friend Janetta. The two girls were prisoners but they had such a wonderful friendship. I liked how they used to spend hours talking about boys. It was nice seeing Lettie getting to experience such a friendship but still heartbreaking. Another character who stood out was a British soldier called Tommy Maples, a young soldier who didn’t want to be there in the first place. Tommy was an interesting character and the only soldier who seemed to show compassion to the prisoners. However, Tommy presented the other side of the story. He portrayed soldiers also affected by the war. His kindness and compassion helped in showing a different side of the war.

Although this is fiction, the book is inspired by true events. It is set in South Africa during the Boer War. This war left a lot of women and children dead from disease in concentration camps. The fact that the book is inspired by true historical events makes it even more heartbreaking. It covers an important part of history that I didn’t know about. It is definitely a book that I recommend to all fans of this genre.
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The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling is a powerful and shocking story about a family during The Second Anglo-Boer War during the early part of the 20th century in Africa. It's a historical fiction story that is inspired by true events. The Lost History of Stars is a story of desperation and hope. 

The main character, Lettie, who is a thirteen year old Dutch-Africkaner girl comes from a poor farming family. She endures the loss of her home with her mother and two younger siblings when the scorched earth policy employed by the British during the Boer War burns their farm and forces them to leave in a wagon. Their African maid, Bina, tries to stay with the family, but is given no choice by the soldiers but to return to her people. 

Lettie and her family are sent to a concentration camp where the conditions are awful. Her father, older brother, uncles, and grandfather are sent to fight the British with guerrilla tactics. Lettie worries and wonders about Bina and her family. Often Lettie remembers the songs and wisdom Bina shared during her childhood and the history of stars that Grandpa shared with her at night under the sparkling sky. 

The story is told from Lettie's point of view. The reader learns of her experience in the concentration camp. Lettie attempt to find the good in small moments. Her more treasured possession is her English dictionary, which she reads for comfort to pass time. 

The story switches between the present and past. This allows the reader to understand life before the war and during the war. It give the reader background information to understand the family dynamics. 

I received this book from Algonquin Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling is another story of horrific atrocities and war told through the eyes of a child. This story is of the Second Anglo-Boer War in South Africa in which thousands of children died of deprivation and disease in internment camps. This book speaks to the power of fiction to convey a history I know very little about. It teaches and sends me off to do more research on the non-fiction actual history of events. For that, I appreciate the book.

Read my complete review at

Reviewed for NetGalley
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The Boers were Dutch descendants, many settling on farmlands in the remote interior of South Africa. The discovery of gold and diamonds pitted the Boers against British colonial interests in the Boer War (1899-1902). While husbands, fathers and sons joined the Boer commandos, women and children stepped up to farm the land. Determined to succeed, the British used scorched earth tactics to destroy family life and livelihood.

Our narrator, thirteen year old, Lettie Venter was working with her mother and siblings on the family farm when British soldiers arrived. The family quickly gathered a few belongings then watched the soldiers torch their farm and slaughter the livestock. The family was then taken by oxcart, joining a caravan earmarked for a concentration camp, a four day journey while experiencing thirst, hunger, overcrowding and overheating. This was just the beginning.

The concentration camp was a densely populated tent city where the fenced in women and children were treated like undesirables. Unreasonable rules were posted throughout the camp. Poor rations and unsanitary conditions, including lack of soap, prevailed.

Lettie Venter kept a journal to write down her thoughts. The journal helped her cope with camp conditions. Having very little paper, she stole camp rule signs that were posted and used the backs of the paper to record memories, especially of night time star gazing with her grandpa who now fought with the Boer commandos. The journal was cathartic, it helped her express her feelings. As time progressed, any togetherness the camp members felt was replaced by suspicion and lack of interest. Lettie's recorded sadness and loss that was palpable. She walked with her eyes downcast to prevent eye contact.

Tommy Maples, a young British guard, over time became a friend of sorts. He described his distaste of war and the concentration camp. At great risk to himself, on two separate occasions, Maples showed compassion for Lettie and her plight. He lent her a copy of "David Copperfield" which she devoured while taking walks in the enclosure. A gift of a stolen potato was a difficult event to read about. The raw potato, to be divided among the residents of the Venter tent, had to be cooked. With no kindling available, Lettie sacrificed pages of her notebooks to heat the potato while inhaling the potato's aroma. Each person's share of the cooked potato was minuscule.

"The Lost History of Stars" by Dave Boling was a well researched history of the hunger, starvation, disease and death of women and children housed in concentration camps as seen through the eyes of a thirteen year old girl. The story is compelling and begs to draw comparison to the feelings and ruminations of Anne Frank. Greed, as a motivating factor, caused 22,000 Boer children to die in British concentration camps. This historical fiction tome has presented a history of women and children as devastating collateral damage of the Boer War. I highly recommend it.

Thank you Algonquin Books and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Lost History of Stars.
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The Lost History of the Stars takes place during the Boer war in South Africa in 1900. Dutch settlers are being forced from their land by British soldiers and herded into concentration camps. The narrator is Lettie, a 13-year-old Boer. The men in Lettie’s family leave their farm in order to fight the British, and Lettie, her mother, and two younger siblings are left on the farm on their own. When British soldiers come and burn down the family’s farmhouse, she, her mother, and her siblings are forced into a concentration camp. The majority of the story takes place in that concentration camp. It is a crowded, filthy, horrific place, and Lettie attempts to combat her loneliness and boredom by writing in a journal and walking around the camp, reading. She eventually befriends a young British soldier who is guarding the camp, and their relationship complicates her understanding of the war and of human nature.

Much of the story is brutal. The conditions in the concentration camp are harsh and unforgiving. Lettie and her family battle disease, cold, starvation, death, and incredible filth. The story is interspersed with Lettie’s recollections of life on the farm prior to the war, which slows the story down, and at times makes it drag. I knew nothing about the Boer war before reading this novel, so it was an illuminating look at a time in history that was unfamiliar to me. There was interesting exploration of human nature and war, but mostly this is a story of survival, perseverance, courage, family, love, and willpower.
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"The Lost History of Stars" is a book everyone should read.  History is destined to repeat itself and this book is an eye-opening look into how people are treated in times of war across history.  The concentration camp Lettie and her family are placed in during the Boer War is a place full of disease and filth and starvation.  Lettie survives these harsh circumstances through her own strength of character, intelligence, and determination.  I loved her voice, cried along with her and felt every heartbreak and triumph.
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Aleeta is a young girl during the Boer War. The male members of her family are off fighting the war while the female members and kids are left to run the farm. When the British army burns her family's farm to the ground she is sent to live in a concentration camp with her mother and younger siblings.

I was hooked at the first scene, when the author describes Alberta's eight year old brother standing strong in the face of British muskets. The scene was so perfectly written and the characters so compelling I had to keep reading.

What really struck me about this book was how the author used Alberta's coming of age to explore both sides of the war and the ambiguity of right and wrong. Aleeta learns that not all British soldiers are purely bad and not everyone on her family's side of the war is purely good. As she learns these lessons, the reader is given the chance to see the war from many sides too.

The subject matter is depressing, but it was good to learn a lesser known piece of history and I really enjoyed this book.
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I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  

The Lost History of Stars is a novel by Dave Boling.  I was looking forward to reading this book because it is set in South Africa, just like one of my all-time favorites- The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.  Almost immediately, I realized there was a connection between the books: in The Power of One, the English protagonist is severely bullied by Boer boys at his boarding school as punishment for the abuse their grandparents suffered in concentration camps at the hands of the English.  The Lost History of Stars is an account of life in the camps as seen by a teenage girl.  

Lettie is sent to a concentration camp along with her brother and mother after their farm is burned to the ground by the English.  Her father, older brother, grandfather, and uncles are all conducting guerilla operations against the English.  Conditions in the camp are bleak, and disease is rampant.  Lettie is rather stoic about her experience, and tries to find pleasure in small moments.  One of her most treasured possessions is her English dictionary, which she reads for comfort and to pass the time.  

Lettie’s narrative shifts between the present and the past, providing the reader with vignettes of what her life was like on the farm before the war began.  This background information helps define the dynamic between Lettie’s family members, some of whom are also in the camp.  

The Lost History of Stars is a powerful novel that resonated with me.  It is a story of desperation and it is a story of hope.  Lettie is an insightful narrator, but she is still a young girl.  The reader might pick up on some aspects of the plot that Lettie fails to realize the significance of.  This does not make her an unreliable narrator per se, but rather, this serves as a more genuine account than having a preternaturally smart narrator.  I would absolutely recommend The Lost History of Stars.
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So I'll start of by saying that I'm probably a bit biased in my rating, as I'm Afrikaans this book feels very close to my heart. An easy-reading but insightful portrayal of the Boer war. The facts are rather shocking - in a two year war twenty-two thousand Boer children died in the concentration camps - more than the combined fatalities among soldiers on both sides.
This is the story about fourteen-year old Lettie, who ends up in one of these camps, after being forcefully removed from her farm. Similar to Anne Frank, initially Lettie focuses on everyday things like making friends, and the lack of boys in the camp. As time goes on we get to experience the horror (physical and emotional) of being locked up in a camp like animals. I loved that the author also included a British soldier's experience, as a reminder that war is horrible for all involved. The strength of the Afrikaans women/mothers in all situations - running a farm by themselves after all the males left for the war, or trying to look after their children in the camps - is what will stay with me longest. I highly recommend this to anyone that enjoys historical fiction.
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This novel feels both familiar and foreign at the same time. I've read lots of historical fiction and a decent number of concentration camp accounts, both fiction and nonfiction. However, I knew nothing about the Boer War except for the name. As the introduction says, this book is intended to bring to light "a twentieth-century atrocity -- a war against children -- that has been largely forgotten." With excellent pacing and character development, it does its job well.
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Set during the Second Boer War, The Lost History of Stars follows Dutch Afrikaner Lettie, her mother, and her siblings as the men fight the British.  Forced from their home, Lettie, Willem, Cecilia, and their mother are taken to a concentration camp.  Supposedly, this is for their own protection.  In the camp, the conditions are barely tolerable as they live in tents, share filthy latrines, and haul water via buckets.  Often, there is no fuel for cooking fires for what little food they are given.  On top of this, multiple families hare each tent.  There is no formal schooling and illness runs rampant.

Lettie and her family must make do and part of her perseverance comes from what she learned in the past, and is shown through alternating flashback chapters in the first two sections of the novel.  These chapters demonstrate how Lettie traveled into the bush with her father and older brother, Schalk.  They also show the nights spent learning the stars with her grandfather and days spent receiving schooling from her Tante (Aunt) Hannah. Lettie uses these experiences to stay strong and learn from those around her as she both survives and come of age during a dark time in her life.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Lost History of Stars.  Despite the somber topic, it was poetically written and the characters were strong.  Lettie never let anything get her down despite the whole world seeming to be against her. It also astounded me that a man could pen a novel from a feminine perspective and have it come through without sounding overly masculine as I have often found to be the case.  In comparison, the concentration camps in the Boer Wars were more reminiscent of the Japanese civilian POW camps, such as in the novel Thief of Glory, than those of the Holocaust.  Either way, both were far from ideal.  Throughout the novel, Boling managed vivid description and compelling dialogue that kept a reader drawn in.
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What a book! Really enjoyed!  Highly recommend.  Perfect book club pick!
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