For the first time in decades, Lorraine Kindred has returned to the ballroom where she was swept away by the big bands during the 1940s – and by a star-crossed romance. As she takes in the magnificent energy and brassy sounds of her youth, the past comes to life, along with the fateful decision all those years ago that forced her to choose between personal conviction and social expectations, between the two men who had captured her heart. It had been a time of great music and love, but also of war and sacrifice, and now, trying to make peace with her memories, Lorraine must find the courage to face buried secrets. In the process, she will rediscover herself, her passion, and her capacity for resilience.
I knew that this would be a special book from the first page. Stars over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth tells the story of Lorraine. This story is narrated in two timelines. One is in the 1940s and the second one in 2007. In 2007, Lorraine goes to a Ballroom which sparks memories of events that took place in 1943. The story shifts between the two timelines connecting the past and the present. We find out about events that happened in the 1940s which reveal the secrets of the present day.
This book just made me feel good. I wanted to keep reading it. I needed to know how it would all end but I had to stop myself from rushing through it. Each time that I picked it up, it felt like I was being reunited with a long, lost friend. I loved the moments but didn’t want them to end. Lorraine is an amazing protagonist in both timelines. I loved how different she was. She had dreams and aspirations that she was committed to despite the hostile environment that she lived in which unfortunately did not allow her to yearn for a different kind of life.
There are many characters that I loved in this book. I will just mention two of my favorite ones without explaining much so as not to spoil the book. The first one is Lorraine’s dad. He now joins my list of favorite literary dads. His relationship with Lorraine reminded me of Hans Huberman and Liesel in The Book Thief. The two were so close and it was a delight to get to know them through the chapters. I loved Jans. Oh, this man was something else. I just liked everything about him.
There are a number of major and minor themes interwoven in this lovely tale. The role of women in the 1943 society was a minor theme but it still played a major role in the story. I can’t imagine what it was like to be a woman in that era. Marriage was considered as being enough for women. That title Mrs. was supposed to be all that a girl needs. If you wanted more, that implied that marriage wasn’t enough which was unacceptable. I loved reading the little details about life back then.
Love and societal expectations are major themes in this book. There was a lot of prejudice in that era. The war was going on and so sides had been chosen. The book is set in Iowa. However, there is a Prisoner of War (PoW) camp in the town. The POWs are Germans. In the story, we get to meet a group of them. We get know their character. Some were good people but others weren’t. Nevertheless, the rest of the town just thought of them all as Nazis. The relationship between the locals and the POWs was made worse by the fact that a lot of men in the community had died at the war. Many families were grieving and to them, the POWs represented the enemy who tool their loved ones. In the midst of all this, there is love. Familial love that knows no boundaries, friendships that may seem odd due to the differences but they worked and love between different couples. Needless to say, not everyone accepted all these relationships.
Stars over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth will break your heart. There are chapters that I struggled to get through. I wanted to know what would happen to the characters but I was afraid of the truth. There were other characters that had a different ending than what I would have liked. I was also very torn about other characters that were not bad but things couldn’t work out for them. Most of the chapters made me smile though. There is one relationship that I really loved to read about. They reminded me of Noah and Allie in The Notebook. The relationship was so well portrayed. It was realistic and cute and I just loved this couple. I can’t stop thinking about some of the scenes involving them. The writer did such a wonderful job with this relationship. She created passion between the two characters that made me feel like I was part of their story. I wanted them to be together and each obstacle just broke my heart.
I have already said this but I loved this book. It had memorable characters and the storyline was beautiful, heartbreaking and yet a delight to read. I liked the 1940s time period more than 2007 although both were necessary for the story. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the historical aspects of this story are actually based on reality. The POW camp in Iowa which later became a museum is still there. It is called Algona. In the story, a lot happened at the Surf Ballroom which later burned down in 1946 but was rebuilt at a different site and is still standing. Yeah, the Surf still exists today and it did burn down in 1946 in a fire although in this case, the author created a story about what caused the fire. Clear Lake is an actual place in Iowa. There are a lot of things that I can mention about the setting and history but let me just say that I truly loved this detail. I don’t know anything about Iowa so it was lovely to find out so many different things about the place and its history. I loved how history and fiction were interwoven to create the masterpiece that is Stars over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth. I highly recommend this book especially to fans of historical fiction.
Set during the 1940s and the present and inspired by a real-life ballroom, Stars Over Clear Lake is a moving story of forbidden love, lost love, everlasting love – and self love.