Review: The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling

Lost History of StarsIn turn-of-the-century South Africa, fourteen-year-old Lettie, her younger brother, and her mother are Dutch Afrikaner settlers who have been taken from their farm by British soldiers and are being held in a concentration camp. It is early in the Boer War, and Lettie’s father, grandfather, and brother are off fighting the British as thousands of Afrikaner women and children are detained. The camps are cramped and disease ridden; the threat of illness and starvation are ever present. Determined to dictate their own fate, Lettie and her family give each other strength and hope as they fight to survive amid increasingly dire conditions.

Brave and defiant, Lettie finds comfort in memories of stargazing with her grandfather, in her plan to be a writer, and in surprising new friendships that will both nourish and challenge her. A beautiful testament to love, family, and sheer force of will, The Lost History of Stars was inspired by Dave Boling’s grandfather’s own experience as a soldier during the Boer War. Lettie is a figure of abiding grace, and her story is richly drawn and impossible to forget.


The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling begins on the day that fourteen year Lettie lost her home. British soldiers come in and torch their houses and then send the family to a concentration camp where they all live in a tent shared with another family. The story is mostly set in the camp. We get to see the kind of life that the Afrikaners live there. There are a few chapters that contain flashbacks of life before the camp.

Lottie is the main character and narrator for this story. She is young, barely a teen but forced to adjust to a different life. I really liked her character. First of all, she is a bookworm. Even in the camp, Lottie still found a way to get lost in books. She was quite strong despite her circumstances. I sympathized with her due to what she was going through. Lottie was at a sensitive age, learning about boys, womanhood but experiencing these things in the midst of the chaos that was the camp life. The story was heartbreaking. Needless to say, life at the camp was hard. The living conditions were terrible. So many people died especially the kids.

Through Lettie, we get to meet different characters. I really liked her friend Janetta. The two girls were prisoners but they had such a wonderful friendship. I liked how they used to spend hours talking about boys. It was nice seeing Lettie getting to experience such a friendship but still heartbreaking. Another character who stood out was a British soldier called Tommy Maples, a young soldier who didn’t want to be there in the first place. Tommy was an interesting character and the only soldier who seemed to show compassion to the prisoners. However, Tommy presented the other side of the story. He portrayed soldiers also affected by the war. His kindness and compassion helped in showing a different side of the war.

Although this is fiction, the book is inspired by true events. It is set in South Africa during the Boer War. This war left a lot of women and children dead from disease in concentration camps. The fact that the book is inspired by true historical events makes it even more heartbreaking. It covers an important part of history that I didn’t know about. It is definitely a book that I recommend to all fans of this genre.