Bright Stars was an amazing read, with its mixture of romance and suspense; its genuine emotions jumped off the page. I felt very emotionally invested in the story. The plot follows the life of Cameron Spark, and the narrative switches between him as a teenager at Lancaster University in 1985, with his three friends Bex, Tommo and Christie, and between middle-aged Cameron working in Edinburgh, haunted by his past. At the beginning of the novel, things aren’t going too well for him – he is potentially about to lose his job as a ghost tour guide after an unfortunate mishap, and he and his wife are separated. He is also incapable of letting go of the past, and the terrible event that happened to him and his friends in 1985. Finally, the past comes back to confront him: he receives an invitation to a party in London from his old friend, Christie. He hasn’t seen his friends in over twenty years, but is that time long enough to let go of the pain of the past?
Bright Stars covers several poignant topics: unrequited love, betrayal, alcohol and drug abuse, trauma and ghosts of the past. Despite this, it never becomes too heavy – it is well-written and I found it an easy, fun read. I particularly enjoyed the narrative style of the book as it jumps between 1985 and 2013: it builds suspense and intrigue for the reader and the 2013 plot creates effective foreshadowing for the pivotal event in 1985 – I was desperate to know what happened! It also keeps both narrative strands fresh. One of my favourite aspects was the link between metaphorical ghosts (Cameron’s ghosts of his past), and the real (or not real) ghosts of his every-day life in Edinburgh, a notoriously haunted city.
As a main character, I thought Cameron was the perfect choice as the narrator – he has more insight than the other characters do, particularly about the thoughts and feelings of others, meaning that even though the reader is in his head, I still had an inkling about what was going on in the other characters’ minds. I also found him sympathetic and likeable, and definitely heroic. I won’t expand on this point for fear of accidental spoilers!
Although I found the other characters much less personable than Cameron, they were all perfectly characterised, and I could easily picture them in my head, they were that well described and mapped out. I really disliked one character, Tommo, but even in his case I could appreciate that this meant he was very well written.
I did find myself surprised by the ending, although that wasn’t a bad thing at all! In my opinion, it doesn’t end like a typical romance novel does, and I liked its unexpected twist – I found when I looked back through the novel there were subtle hints here and there about what would happen at the end, and I was extremely impressed by this masterful storytelling. The only problem I had with the ending was that one of the characters who is vital to the story’s ending I felt was not particularly developed – up until the ending they had had only a small part to play, so perhaps it would have been nicer to see more of this character, so that the reader could get a better sense of them. However, on the whole, I was delighted with this story, and I thought that it ended perfectly, with the happiest ending possible – I’m always one for the happy endings!
I would recommend this for anyone who likes unconventional romance stories, but you don’t have to like romance to enjoy it! It focuses on letting go of the past and embracing the present and future. It’s about forgiveness and coping with emotional pain, I think that those sorts of themes should appeal to all readers.