As Stars Fall by Christie Nieman
Published 2014 by Pan Macmillan
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: Robin is a self-confessed bird-nerd from the country, living in the city. On the first day at her new school, she meets Delia. Delia is freaky and definitely not good for Robin's image.Seth, Delia's brother, has given up school to prowl the city streets. He is angry at everything, especially the fire that killed his mother.When a rare and endangered bird turns up in the city parklands, the lives of Robin, Seth and Delia become fatefully and dangerously intertwined ...As Stars Fall is Christie Nieman's debut novel, set in Melbourne and the fictional rural town of Murramunda. The opening scene involving a bush fire and the death of a woman was haunting, especially as seen from the eyes of a Bush Stone-curlew, a rare native Australian bird. I knew from that moment that I was in for a moving and beautiful story.
Robin is struggling with the move to the city, but she doesn't want to upset her mum after her father's betrayal. Delia and Seth are both dealing with their mother's death in different ways. Delia finds herself wanting to scientifically investigate the appearance of a bird nearby, a bird that haunts her sleep at night, sure that the bird is one of a pair her mother was studying before she died. Seth withdraws from the world, quitting school and spending his days smoking and getting stoned, and soon finds himself similarly haunted, but in his case by Robin's arrival.
The references to different birds and their behaviour was vividly described and it's clear that Christie herself is someone who has spent a lot of time watching birds. I enjoyed looking up all the different species, as well as their unique calls. As I'm writing this I can hear cockatoos, noisy minors, and lorikeets. We have a pair of lapwings in our area and I immediately thought of them because of their similar build and their funny alarm-like call. When I used to go running really early in the morning one of my favourite things was getting to see all the different birds and animals, and listening to the birds above me as I ran.
We're so lucky to have such amazing wildlife in Australia and this book really highlighted the need for us to pay more attention to caring for these animals, rather than destroying their habitat. This was conveyed through the passionate and thoughtful writing that Selina, Delia and Seth's mum, left behind. This aspect of the story really spoke to my vegan heart.
The characters and the location all felt completely real to me and I was intrigued as to how the characters lives would intertwine. It was lovely to watch Delia and Robin become friends, and it was equally sad to watch Seth struggle on his own. There was an undercurrent of urgency throughout the story, left over from the opening scene. I could feel the ending building and thought it was well resolved. It was heart wrenching, it made me cry, and I have to say I feel a little depressed, but there's a faint tinge of hopefulness too.
As Stars Fall is a gorgeously written novel that captures the essence of the Australian bush, and shows how friendship can help to heal grief and loss. I can't believe I've had this on my shelf for two years, unaware of what a gem this book is, I can't recommend it enough.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan for my review copy.