Originally published: 21 July 2022
Author: Alexandra Heminsley
Published by: Sphere
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Reading dates: 18- July 2022
Clara Seymour is trying to find her feet in London, living away from home for the first time. Brought up by her domineering mother, treasuring time any time with her adoring father, Clara’s world is brought to a standstill when her dad abruptly dies.
Then, a mystery comes to light in a letter from him.
“I am sure you are aware that before I met your mother I had a previous marriage. But what we never discussed is that we had a daughter.”
So begins a journey of discovery that takes Clara to remote Norway and a landscape as brutal as it is bewitching, a voyage fraught with personal and emotional danger tore veal who her father really was – and find the sister she’s never met.
Clara is an estate agent who is shattered to learn her father has died unexpectedly. Having a frosty relationship with her mother and living with her bullying boyfriend Simon, Clara’s loss hits her hard. She is given a letter from her aunt, written by her dad some years before to be given to her when he died. In it he explains about another daughter that Clara knew nothing about from a previous marriage. For reasons he doesn’t make clear, his other daughter, Maggie wants nothing to do with him and he hasn’t had contact for several years.
He tasks Clara with going to see Maggie to give her a small collection of photos he wanted her to have. Clara is hurt not to have been told about her sister and lashes out at her mum for not telling her. With the help of her dad’s solicitor, she manages to track down Maggie to a remote Norwegian island, Måsholmen.
She decides to go an meet Maggie for herself. She is happy to get away from Simon, so not telling him where she is going she embarks on a journey across Europe involving planes, overnight trains and boats to eventually arrive at Maggie’s island.
I absolutely loved Under the Same Stars. Poor Clara is not in a good place before her dad dies. She is stuck in a bad relationship but doesn’t know how to get out and her visits to her dad are a lifeline. She has fond memories of many trips with her dad whom seemed warmer and more loving than her mum.
The trip to Norway is described beautifully – the train speeding across Norway enables the author to describe the remarkable landscapes. Getting to the island is not easy – a rough boat ride is the final leg of the journey and the island is so remote, the only occupants are Signe who runs and lives in the lighthouse and Maggie who lives on the other side of the island alone. The terrain, although beautiful is not easily navigated.
Under the Same Stars is a wonderful story of self discovery and sisterhood, of learning to live without the technology of everyday life, to live off the land and to appreciate the beauty around you. As always when I read a book about another location, it makes me want to visit but I’m not sure I’m cut out for the trek of getting there!
Many thanks to Clara at Little Brown for sending me a copy for review.
About the author:
ALEXANDRA HEMINSLEY is author of three books about women, bodies and sport, including bestselling memoir Running Like a Girl and Some Body to Love. She is also an experienced co-writer, whose top ten Sunday Times bestsellers include Judy Murray’s William Hill Sports Book of the Year-nominated Knowing the Score and Sara Davies’ We Can All Make It.
After working in publishing, she became a freelance journalist, broadcaster and author in 2004. She was the books editor at ELLE for eight years and spent ten years at BBC Radio 2’s Claudia Winkleman’s Arts Show. She regularly appears at literary festivals as both co-host and guest and was a judge for 2011’s Costa Novel of the Year Award.