Monday, January 8, 2024

Book Review: The Boy with the Star Tattoo

By Sara Steven

1942: As the Vichy government hunts for Jews across France, Claudette Pelletier, a young and talented seamstress and lover of romance novels, falls in love with a Jewish man who seeks shelter at the château where she works. Their whirlwind and desperate romance before he must flee leaves her pregnant and terrified.

When the Nazis invade the Free Zone shortly after the birth of her child, the disabled Claudette is forced to make a heartbreaking choice and escapes to Spain, leaving her baby in the care of his nursemaid. By the time Claudette is able to return years later, her son has disappeared. Unbeknown to his anguished mother, the boy has been rescued by a Youth Aliyah agent searching for Jewish orphans.

1968: When Israeli naval officer Daniel Yarden recruits Sharon Bloomenthal for a secret naval operation in Cherbourg, France, he can’t imagine that he is the target of the agenda of the twenty-year-old grieving the recent loss of her fiancĂ© in a drowned submarine. Sharon suspects that Danny's past in Youth Aliyah may reflect that of her mysterious late mother and she sets out to track her boss’s extraordinary journey as an orphan in a quaint French village all the way to Israel.

As Danny focuses on the future of his people and on executing a daring, crucial operation under France’s radar, he is unaware that the obsessed Sharon follows the breadcrumbs of clues across the country to find her answers. But she is wholly unprepared for the dilemma she must face upon solving the puzzle. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I cannot say enough good things about The Boy with the Star Tattoo. It was absolutely riveting and I needed to know how it would end, if Sharon would finally find closure regarding her mother’s life and past. As a reader, I knew what was coming, but even when the truth was revealed, it was still heartwarming and heartbreaking, all at once. My knowledge of the Vichy government and the events that took place in France had been limited coming into this experience. I had learned about the Holocaust, but was not privy to the background and history about the Free Zone or Youth Aliyah. It is important to learn more about what happened after the Holocaust. How did the children and their families become reunited? In many cases, that did not happen.

I loved the two different timelines that are provided through Sharon’s and Claudette’s perspectives. Both feed into the other, so the events that take place in 1942 shape the outcomes of 1968. Claudette represents to me the spirit, the utter grit to survive the dire surroundings and circumstances she has to endure and fight through. She will do anything for those she loves, putting her own life at risk in order to someday be reunited with her son and her beloved. It sets the blueprint for Sharon, blazing a trail into discovery, despite the many obstacles that stand in her way. She is constantly at war with herself, unsure of whether to speak up or to share her truth, but it keeps her going. Finding the truth becomes her mission, and she will stop at nothing to achieve that.

I think one of the most critical characters and someone who really stood out to me was Sharon’s mother, Judith. We get glimpses of Judith’s viewpoint, too: a young woman who has been tasked with what feels impossible–saving the children and reuniting them with their families. She isn’t highlighted as a primary character, which made sense given the timeline and the focus, but she really was such an integral part to everything. A close second would be Uzi, a man who finds the lost children, but he is also in charge of the plans that are put into place and the survival of the children becomes his blueprint. Getting to walk in his shoes and see the dismal yet hopeful world through his eyes was such a profound experience. 

At many points, I felt teary-eyed with emotion. Knowing it is historical fiction added even more to my emotional feelings about this book. It truly affected me in a way that no other historical read has. If I could give The Boy with the Star Tattoo more than five stars, I would!

Thanks to William Morrow for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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1 comment: said...

Dear Sarah,
Thank you for a glowing review of my 6th novel. There is no greater pleasure for an author than to share her work and passion with appreciative readers!
I hope that you will join me at one of my many upcoming talks. (Please check my website for a list.)
Thanks again,