Day 1290: Literary Wives! The Stars Are Fire

Cover for The Stars Are FireToday is another review for the Literary Wives blogging club, in which we discuss the depiction of wives in fiction. If you have read the book, please participate by leaving comments on any of our blogs. Be sure to read the reviews and comments of the other wives!

Emily of The Bookshelf of Emily J.
Eva of Paperback Princess
Lynn of Smoke and Mirrors
Naomi of Consumed By Ink

* * *

After a winter that seemed like it would never end, the autumn in Maine of October 1947 is in severe drought. Grace Holland is pregnant and the mother of two small children. She feels that her marriage is in jeopardy. Her husband, Gene, never loving or communicative, has barely spoken to her since his mother died. Soon, though, she has the very existence of her family to worry about as fires threaten their small beach community.

Grace is able to save her children and her neighbor’s family, but Gene, who went out to fight the fire, doesn’t return. Everything she owned is gone, so now Grace must learn to live an entirely different life.

Anita Shreve knows how to tell a story, and this one drew me right in. Her characters are vibrant and believable. A few of her books have brought me to tears. This is not one of them, but it is still an absorbing novel to read.

What does this novel say about wives or the experience of being a wife?

At the beginning of the novel, Grace’s life as a wife is one of loneliness. Her husband barely speaks to her or touches her. We get the feeling he blames her, as does his mother, for getting pregnant so that he had to marry her. Left all day without a car, she can walk to shop, see her mother, or visit her girlfriend, Rosie. In her own house, however, she is treated as someone to keep the house, care for the kids, and occasionally provide sex.

Spoilers ahead . . . . Sorry, they’re unavoidable.

After she learns independence when Gene disappears during the fire, her marriage changes with his return. Now, he begins to behave with the more classic traits of an abusive husband. He speaks to her cruelly, tries to isolate her in their home, and eventually becomes threatening and physically abusive. Since the fire, Grace has had to learn to survive, and she has to figure out how to do that in an abusive marriage.

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20 thoughts on “Day 1290: Literary Wives! The Stars Are Fire

  1. Naomi December 3, 2018 / 10:39 am

    I usually warn about spoilers for my LW reviews – I find it hard to discuss them without giving things away.
    It didn’t even occur to me that Gene might blame her for getting pregnant before they got married. I don’t know why not – it makes good sense! He obviously doesn’t love her.
    I find it interesting that because of the time period, you can have that whole ‘there’s no passion in the marriage but the wife doesn’t really know what she’s missing’ thing. Until she does know. You can’t use that easily in contemporary novels!
    What are your thoughts on the Doctor? He provided her with a job, but was also starting to become a big part of her life until Gene came home. But he also isn’t Aiden.

    • whatmeread December 3, 2018 / 10:44 am

      Oh, I thought they stated that explicitly about his blaming her, but maybe it was just implied. I was hoping for the doctor rather than the Aidan, for some reason, although it was obvious she was going to end up with some romance in her life.

      • Lynn Gerrard December 3, 2018 / 1:34 pm

        I think it was stated in the book, Kay. Can’t tell you a page number, but I seem to remember him saying that to her about the time he revealed her resemblance to another woman from his past.

      • whatmeread December 3, 2018 / 6:42 pm

        That sounds about right.

      • Naomi December 4, 2018 / 12:52 pm

        I think I missed that!

  2. Lynn Gerrard December 3, 2018 / 1:33 pm

    Yes, she was (ironically) the loneliest when she was “happily married” in the beginning of the book! It was amazing just how quickly that supposedly “happy family” facade was dispelled!

  3. The Paperback Princess December 3, 2018 / 6:10 pm

    I also hoped she was going to end up with the doctor!
    Even before he leaves, you can tell something is wrong with Gene. There’s the whole not-quite-consensual-sex they have that results in the third pregnancy – so violent. And the drinking he does late at night…he’s off.

    This was the first book of Anita Shreve’s I’d read but it definitely won’t be the last.

    • whatmeread December 3, 2018 / 6:44 pm

      Yes, it was not a good situation even before he came back.

    • Naomi December 4, 2018 / 12:54 pm

      I haven’t read one in a long time, but the one I remember liking the most is Fortune’s Rocks. Although, that was so long ago, maybe I wouldn’t like it now! But I think I would… I think that’s another historical one.

      • whatmeread December 4, 2018 / 1:35 pm

        I didn’t like that one very much.

      • Naomi December 4, 2018 / 2:25 pm

        I can’t even ask why, since I can barely remember it myself! lol

      • whatmeread December 4, 2018 / 2:29 pm

        It’s about a grown man who leaves his family for a very young girl. Very young.

      • Naomi December 5, 2018 / 11:41 am

        Ohhh…. I don’t remember that… maybe I’m thinking of a different book!

      • whatmeread December 5, 2018 / 3:11 pm

        I think that’s the right one. The girl was the main character. We have a history in my family that made me not appreciate that one.

      • Naomi December 7, 2018 / 11:47 am

        Oh!!

  4. Davida Chazan December 8, 2018 / 2:22 am

    I used to be a huge fan of Shreve, but she was always hit or miss for me, so I stopped reading her books.

    • whatmeread December 8, 2018 / 8:29 am

      That’s exactly how I feel about her lately.

      • Davida Chazan December 14, 2018 / 4:34 am

        By the way, if you want to discuss how wives are treated (badly) in fiction, then Jonathan Franzen is your writer. I really disliked how he portrayed women in his book “Freedom”! My review is here https://wp.me/pauSsa-dK

      • whatmeread December 14, 2018 / 10:35 am

        Interesting.

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