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A Star for Mrs. Blake

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  3,878 ratings  ·  790 reviews
The United States Congress in 1929 passed legislation to fund travel for mothers of the fallen soldiers of World War I to visit their sons’ graves in France. Over the next three years, 6,693 Gold Star Mothers made the trip. In this emotionally charged, brilliantly realized novel, April Smith breathes life into a unique moment in American history, imagining the experience o ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 14th 2014 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2014)
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Brooke Cora had urged him to write to his mother who lived on a ranch so I assumed it was for her.

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Average rating 3.54  · 
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 ·  3,878 ratings  ·  790 reviews

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Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I had mixed feelings about this book. It was certainly a well written and compelling story. April Smith is clearly a very talented woman. The characters were believable, and true to history. I even kind of liked the way that the point of view would switch from character to character with little fanfare. I was able to easily be lost in the memories of Cora and the other mothers as they recounted the fondest memories of their boys or
Jan 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I was up all night with the flu. This book was a non-challenging distraction.

More critical analysis would be less favorable. It had all the sophistication of a "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" book or an American Girl novel where you are allowed to use the word "screw." Well-researched, but fairly flat and predictable.

UPDATE: Turns out I did NOT have the flu. I was pregnant! And I'll probably always remember I was reading this darn book.
Jan 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
I was extremely disappointed in this book, especially since it has been chosen as Cincinnati's "On the Same Page" book for this year. I was anxious to learn more about the WW1 Gold Star Mothers and their pilgrimage to France, but this book is so poorly written, the plot so clumsy, and the characters so cliche that I finally gave up on it. ...more
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to TL by: Won in goodreads giveaway
An interesting subject and lovely writing but it was boring for me. I may check out future books by the author but this one didn't do it for me unfortunately.

*I received this via Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review*
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
A truly dismaying book. I felt like I was following a labrador running hither and yon - look there's a squirrel! The book is supposedly based on the diary of a military man whose first assignment upon graduating West Point was to escort a group of Gold Star mothers to Verdun. The author couldn't decide if this was to be more historically based (it wasn't), a story about the sacrifices that mothers made for the war (repeated ad nauseam), or a romance (little of it). There were too many non-essent ...more
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc
I thought this was a fantastic premise for a book. I was familiar with the concept of stars in the window for sons (and now daughters!) serving abroad and with the gold stars for those who lost a son during World Wars I and II, but I was not familiar with the government sponsored pilgrimages of these mothers to the graves of their sons. Its kind of amazing that our government did that-and really what an undertaking that must have been. (This short article is interesting for further reading.) I l ...more
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What I love about reading historical fiction is that I'm constantly learning. It is like going to school without having to take tests and writing papers. This is exemplified by "A Star for Mrs. Blake." I had never heard that the United States Government planned, paid for and escorted over 6500 mothers of men who were killed in WWI to France where their sons were buried. That fact itself made the book important to me. Additionally, the book is a delightful fictionalized read where we become invol ...more
Mar 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'd never heard of a federally funded pilgrimage of World War 1 gold star mothers to the graves of their sons in Europe, but there was such a program apparently. I find that fact more moving than the novel which just did not do it for me. Aspects of the descriptions and relationships were well done, but then certain scenes between the principle characters would feel just a bit dull somehow and the devices employed to move the plot along were too convenient. And then in the end it was all wrapped ...more
Apr 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
What. A. Read.
When I signed up for the tour I was really interested in the book because I had never heard of the Gold Star Mothers. I'm a Canadian so I'm not well versed in American history but I found the idea of this government initiative to be what drove me to sign up since I rarely read historical fiction set after 1900 and I was very interested in reading a book based on a fictional woman, from small town America travelling overseas to finally see where her son rested 13 years after his dea
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it
I was not terribly engrossed in this story. I think it had too many characters and too much happening to them. It almost felt like Smith had a check list of things that happened related to Gold Star Mothers and made sure to include the whole list. Segregation? Check. Immigrants? Check. Rich lady? Check. Poor lady? Check. Polio victim? Check. Jewish lady? Check. Crazy lady? Check. Health problems? Check. Motion sickness? Check. Issues with unexploded ordinance? Check. A veteran wearing one of tho ...more
Connie G
In 1929, Congress appropriated funds to give Gold Star Mothers the opportunity to visit the graves of their sons who died in World War I. The author, April Smith, was inspired by the real-life diary of Thomas Hammond who acted as an escort to a group of mothers traveling to France in 1931. The book follows fictional Cora Blake and four other East Coast mothers as they travel by ship to France, visiting Paris and Verdun.

There are lots of interesting historical details included in the book--the De
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
April Smith's novel, A Star for Mrs. Smith, is powerful and unforgettable. It's the perfect selection

for a book group, based on a little known fact of American history. She opens the book with a note from the National Archives. "In 1929, Congress enacted legislation that authorized the secretary of war to arrange for pilgrimages to the European cemeteries 'by mothers and widows of members of military and naval forces of the United States who died in the service at any time between April 5, 1917
Callie Glorioso-Mays
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
A Star for Mrs. Blake is a historical fiction book set in 1931, thirteen years after the end of World War I. The story follows Cora Blake's journey from her small town in the United States to visit the grave of her son, Sammy, in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery with a group of Gold Star Mothers (referring to the gold star that hung on their service flags after a family member had died).

Cora Blake, a volunteer librarian, lives on Deer Isle, Maine where she cares for her three nieces, and keeps ta
Maureen Grigsby
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is fun to find novels that focus on a historical incident that I have never heard of. In the 1930’s, apparently the US funded trips to France for Gold Star mother’s. Women who had lost a son in WWI. This novel follows a party of 5 women who decide to take that trip.
Kressel Housman
In 1929, Congress passed a law to cover an all-expense paid trip by boat for American mothers whose sons were killed in World War I and buried in France. This was during the Great Depression and Hoover’s presidency, which is really quite amazing because he wasn’t willing to let the surviving World War I veterans draw their pensions early. If the Gold Star mothers, as they were called, were treated the way this fictional account depicts, it must have been incredibly expensive, but then, the only ...more
Feb 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
This is a book that I thought was okay while I read it, but appreciated it more after my book club discussion. I thought that there were some great characters, but they weren't all developed to their full potential. I also thought some of the dialogue was unrealistic. It was as if it was a blend of 'old-timey' speak and a more modern dialogue. And many times I thought that there was no way that anyone would utter some of the sentences that they spoke. I was also disappointed that there seemed to ...more
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A great story about a little known episode in American history. In 1929 the American government funded travel for mothers of soliders killed and buried in France, to travel to view their sons' graves. This is a story focusing on five of the women who traveled there together.
Cora was a librarian from a small island in Maine; Bobbie,a high society woman from Boston; Katie an Irish immigrant who worked as a maid in Boston; and Minnie, a Jewish woman. The fifth woman in their group was a mix up. The
Feb 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting from the historical point of view, but I was somewhat disappointed with the actual writing. I feel that some story lines were started and then abandoned and some were too predictable. For me, the novel was full of potential, but the execution was not what I had anticipated.
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
Going into this one I knew it didn't have the highest ratings, but I thought the story sounded really good and something different from the normal "time periods" I tend to read about in Historical Fiction.

I will say I'm glad I decided to listen to the audiobook of this! The narrator was really great and it helped get through the slower and what I considered unimportant parts. However, not all of this was bad. I thought the main story was really important and something I didn't know about. This i
T.B. Markinson
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for historical fiction. Many, many years ago it was all that I read. When I read the blurb for this novel I was intrigued. I had never heard of the pilgrimages made by mothers and widows of members of the armed forces who died in World War I. This is the type of history that fascinates me: the history of everyday life.

The story follows five women on their pilgrimage. Each woman is an individual and this adds a wonderful degree of tension in the story. Howev
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
April Smith is quick to write that while the circumstances of her new novel are factual, the majority of the characters are fictional. Still, A Star for Mrs. Blake (Knopf, digital galley), has the veracity of real lives and true emotion. In 1931, Cora Blake is a librarian in a Maine fishing village whose only son died in World War I. As a "Gold Star Mother,'' she joins a group of other women on a government-sponsored trip to France to visit the graves of the fallen and bid a final goodbye. The g ...more
Samantha Glasser
A Star for Mrs. Blake is the story of a woman who gets the chance to visit her son's grave in France. She is a "Gold Star Mother," a woman whose son was killed during WW1. The government gave these women passage to Europe with all expenses paid if their sons weren't shipped home for burial. Prior to reading this book, I had no idea that this really happened, so I am grateful to April Smith for teaching me something.

The story concerns Cora Blake, a single woman from Maine whose son enlisted at t
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
"A Star for Mrs. Blake" covers a historical tale that I have never heard about before (and you all know how I love learning something new from everything that I read). After WWI, families of many American military members were given the choice to bury their fallen family members in France or to bring the bodies back to the States. For those that chose to have their loved ones buried in France, pilgrimages to Europe were organized by the Army for mothers who lost children during the war. This boo ...more
May 07, 2014 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.
A Star For Mrs. Blake was an easy, enjoyable read. The storyline is interesting; the voyage of a group of Gold Star mothers who travel to France in order to visit the graves of their sons who were killed during WWI.
The flow of the story was good and it never felt that it lagged. The character development was mostly solid and I enjoyed the main character of Cora Blake. I did feel, though, that some of the other mothers in Party A came off a bit like caricatures.
I've read a few of the
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four women are among almost 7000 women who are chosen by the US Government back in 1929 to sail to Europe to view the graveyards where their sons or husbands were buried following World War I. Cora sails from small town Main and quickly becomes friends with shipmates Bobbie, Minnie, Katie, and Wilhelmina. Mostly, we hear Cora's story from the time she becomes a mother to when she says her final goodbye to her son, Sammy.
I enjoyed the story very much. We meet a lot of interesting characters and t
Barbara Young
Feb 25, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a book that desperately needed to figure out whose story it was trying to tell.
Dorothy Fleming
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I never knew that the government paid for a trip to France so the gold star mothers and wives( those who lost a son or husband in WW I) could visit the graves of their loved ones. These are the ( fictional, based on fact) stories of some of those women.
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A sweet little book in which to get lost.
Joan Husmann
May 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Interesting background, especially since I visited one of those cemeteries last fall and saw a guesthouse where visiting mothers stayed. I wasn’t particularly fond of most of the characters, and I wanted to know what happened to the African-American mother who got put temporarily with the wrong (I.e. white) group.
Stephanie Evans
Jul 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a really sweet book! ❤️
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Here's the down and dirty: grew up in the Bronx, went to college in Boston, graduate school in California, back to Cambridge to write a first failed novel and learn how the world works by writing ad copy,west to Los Angeles in 1976 for a career writing and producing TV, until the writer's strike of 1988 when I wrote my first novel on spec, North of Montana. Two wonderful grown children and the bes ...more

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“The air was calm and insects had not yet risen off the water, that crisp time of morning before the sun strikes, when it is still cool enough to work out solutions to sticky problems.” 1 likes
“they crossed a drawbridge over a quiet inlet she caught sight of herself in the window and thought, Cora, close your mouth, you look like a kid on Christmas morning.” 1 likes
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