BOOK REVIEW: UNDER A STARRY SKY BY LAURA KEMP

One summer to change her life…

Wanda Williams has always dreamed of leaving her wellies behind her and travelling the world! Yet every time she comes close to following her heart, life always seems to get in the way.

So, when her mother ends up in hospital and her sister finds out she’s pregnant with twins, Wanda knows that only she can save the crumbling campsite at the family farm.

Together with her friends in the village, she sets about sprucing up the site, mowing the fields, replanting the allotment and baking homemade goodies for the campers.

But when a long-lost face from her past turns up, Wanda’s world is turned upside-down. And under a starry sky, anything can happen…

Laura Kemp Under a Starry Sky (@Laurajanekemp) | Twitter

In Under a Starry Sky, we meet the wonderful and adventurous, Wanda Williams, who has unfortunately had to put her travels on hold, as she navigates the family campsite and supports her family. The village of Gobaith has become all too claustrophobic for our leading lady, however, she is determined to just stick around for one more year, then her fifteen-year long wait for travelling can finally resume.

The beginning of this book was a lot more heavy and dramatic than I had been expecting and I loved every second of it. It set the scene perfectly for the time jump and obstacles Wanda is forced to face fifteen years later, piecing together a tragedy that shook Gobaith to it’s core and finally giving closure to a time that has permanently scarred many of the villagers (physically and mentally). Laura offering us an insight in to Wanda’s back story, really allowed me to appreciate the characters in a new light and had me feeling empathy/sympathy for those in all the right places.

Now, to the time jump – Wanda is finally back on track to resuming her travels, for her plans to fall through in one swift move, as family members are in need of help, the family campsite is in trouble and old faces return. It’s clear to see that Wanda is the glue that holds her family together, despite their constant stubbornness and declarations that they don’t need her to stick around. I found her mother and sister’s attitude towards Wanda very dismissive, even though if Wanda wasn’t around, their family campsite would have been left in shambles and on the verge of being closed down. They wasn’t very thankful at the beginning and it irritated me because Wanda had given up so much, in order to enable her family a stable life. I really admired Wanda’s love for those in Gobaith, but I was also so desperate for her to stand up and think about herself for once. After the loss of one of her parents, she hadn’t been able to truly grieve for herself and she needed that time away to do so. That all being said, with the return of familiar faces and the welcome of new one’s, inspiration struck Wanda quite hard, finally giving her a purpose and allowing her to look at opportunities she once wouldn’t have thought of. I especially loved her story-line, in which she was tracking down the father of her sister’s soon-to-be-born twins, as the sooner she pieced her family back together, the quicker they would realise they don’t need to rely on Wanda anymore and she can finally start living.

With the return of two of Wanda’s best friends – Annie and Lew, this year is not only for Wanda to rebuild her family and their home, it is also the year of possible forgiveness. Gobaith is a village that thrives off of the community the villagers have built together, so despite Wanda’s hesitation with rebuilding old friendships, it’s also pretty hard for her to avoid them. Under a Starry Sky allows us to not only explore Wanda’s life, but also Annie’s and I think her story was my favourite between the two. Returning to Gobaith in an attempt to hide from her abusive husband, she finds herself struggling to adapt to the life and people that had once been her home. The fire that had occurred fifteen years ago, also impacted heavily on Annie, as her brother had been involved, causing her welcome to not be as appreciated as she has hoped. Her broken friendship with Wanda was going to be hard to rebuild, but she was a determined woman and wouldn’t give up. With Annie’s heartbreaking backstory, returning to Gobaith couldn’t have been a better decision to make. She allowed herself to embrace her love for the outdoors with gardening, which sometimes included teaching the troublesome youths, giving her a purpose to her new life. She is consumed with anxiety and fear, not only for herself, but also for her dog Teg and the story behind that can quite literally have the power to break your heart in to pieces. The bond between the two was so heartwarming, you could only wish for a miracle to happen to give them the happy ending they deserved.

Lucky for Annie, her miracle was in the form of two newcomers, Spike and his son, Arthur. The friendship between these three was so endearing – I loved how Annie became the woman figure the two needed, after Spike lost his wife, Arthur his mother. She especially had an impact on Arthur, as he was struggling to adapt to his new home and was in dire need of some love and attention from someone besides Spike. Although Annie didn’t have to do much of that herself, as Teg grew very fond of Arthur and the two became inseparable. It seems that Annie has managed to get her life back to some sort of normality, with her new friends, however, with a husband like hers, it’s unlikely he’ll stay away forever, causing tension between her new friendship with Arthur and possible relationship with Spike. The last thing she wants is either of them getting hurt because of her… not again.

Lew was quite the mysterious man, as most are and had been holding on to a lot of secrets over the fifteen years he was away from Gobaith, however reconnecting with Wanda and Annie gave him a push to unleash those, in order to allow the three to truly heal from that one night. I really enjoyed seeing Lew and Wanda reconnect and rediscover their love for one another, although I wanted to see more!

Overall, this book was every type of cosy and wonderful, with the most delightful set of characters, all with fascinating stories behind them. Laura’s writing was so descriptive, I felt like I was in Gobaith with everybody. The writing was also very gentle and enchanting, keeping you completely enthralled with both Wanda and Annie’s stories. If you’re looking for an escapism book, join Wanda, Annie and many more, Under a Starry Sky!

Shelby x

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