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The Afterlife of Stars

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  800 ratings  ·  125 reviews
In the waning months of 1956, while Russian tanks roll into the public squares of Budapest to crush the Hungarian Revolution, brothers Robert and Attila Beck flee with their family to the Paris townhouse of their great-aunt Hermina. As they travel through minefields both real and imagined, Robert and Attila grapple with sibling rivalry, family secrets, and incalculable los ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by Penguin Canada (first published September 2nd 2014)
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Susan Zinner This is a pretty big spoiler as this does not occur until the last 10 pages. Sorry!

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Diane S ☔
Jan 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: lor
3.5 When the Russians arrive in Budapest to stop the Hungarian Revolution, there is much terror and bloodshed. Men hanging from lampposts, shot in the street. Young Robert 9.8 years as he points out and his 13 year old brother Atilla, with their family, leave their home, taking a train to their Great Aunt's house in Paris. Along the way they will meet many different people, experience a family heartbreak and separation, until they finally make it to Paris. Once there family secrets are exposed, ...more
Some books draw us in immediately, and of these, not all retain the initial zest.

Some books seduce us and only at the disappointing finale do we realize a lack of depth, or resolution, or satisfaction.

There are books we abandon for various reasons, in irritation or disgust or boredom perhaps, an inability to connect,even if we plough on to the end, as a tedious chore.

Then there are books that take longer to assert their character. Books that rattle us, that force us to sit up and take note. Bo
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for review.

The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 began as a student demonstration against Soviet-imposed policies and turned into a nationwide revolt which resulted in the collapse of the government.

Next time someone tells you that being a part of any demonstration won't lead to anything, remember the Hungarian Uprising as one amongst many examples of how a few voices can quickly grow into a nationwide revolution.

The author escaped Hungary to Canada dur
Christopher Farrell
Jul 19, 2014 rated it did not like it
I really did not enjoy this book. While the story was well written, I found the two brothers very unlikable. The relationship between the two of them seemed very odd - not as much brothers as friends, and the way Attila spoke to Robert weirded me right out. The story felt like I had read it before - exile during WW2 - combined with confusing family "secrets" and the constant annoying questions and observances by Attila. Leave this on the shelf. ...more
Ken Ballen
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most poignant, funny, poetic and gripping novels I have read in the last ten years. The harrowing yet hilarious tale of two brothers escaping Communist Hungary will make you laugh and make you cry. It will transport you as only the very best novel can. Here’s what two of my favorite authors, Anne Michaels and Tim O’Brien, have to say about this extraordinary and exceptional book:

"The Afterlife of Stars moved me more than any novel I've read in recent memory. It hypnotizes. It
There are not all that many books dealing with the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and this was one of my reasons for reading it. That and the fact that when I was a Girl Scout, we had a young Hungarian man who had escaped from his country speak to us. While I don't remember the specifics of what he said I do remember being impressed with his bravery. So on to the book. I wasn't crazy about it and almost abandoned it a couple of times. The narrator, Robert, was just over 9 years old. His older brot ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend people read it.

This book is a beautifully told story centering on two young brothers and their family escaping a tumultuous Hungary as the Soviets invade and Their journey to a better life. The story is told with heartfelt poignancy and was extremely thought-provoking. The heavy subject matter was very well written and lightened by occasional humor.

Worth the read!
Patricia Monger
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
There is a great story to be told here, but unfortunately the author doesn't really tell it. Instead he focuses on what ends up looking like the typical testosterone attack that is inflicted on the typical teenage boy by his own body. There are glimpses of the great story, but they are overwhelmed by the uninteresting. ...more
I gave up on this book about half way through as I didn't like it. I usually enjoy World War Two fiction but this novel starts in the middle of the story when a family are forced to leave their home. We don't know anything about the family and it's not put into historical context so if you don't know about Hungary and the war, you'll be confused. It is a micro focus on family and the minute by minute things they go through as shown through the eyes of a teenage boy. I realise a young narrator ca ...more
Told from the perspective of a 9-year-old boy whose family was saved by Raoul Wallenberg during World War II and who are now desperately trying to escape Hungary after the 1956 revolution. The narrator was good and the writing was lyrical and moving at times but the plot was slow moving and rather strange. Though I was compelled to finish it.
Rob Shapiro
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An amazing, heartfelt and gripping read. Highly recommended!
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing

The Afterlife of Stars is a remarkable book by a gifted author. A must read.
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended. Fantastic portrayal of siblings.
Nov 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended. Very satisfying read. Endearing characters. Boy narrator character charming.
J.S. Dunn
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 for literary skill; 3.5 for short/shallow
It is difficult to decide if this work was cut short on purpose; also if the awful realities of what the hero's parents survived are made incidental on purpose. The latter seems the better explanation. A child's perspective on awful, grownup horrors, the better to contrast innocence with hyper-reality.
In any event, the writing is superb. Not a word out of place or superfluous.
Katherine Potvin
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
The author uses the ignorance of a "9.8" year old narrator to disguise the fact that he doesn't know how to actually explain complexities. This book was so miserable I couldn't even get near halfway through. Don't even bother picking this up. ...more
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great story taking place during the 1956 Hungarian uprising against the Russians. From the point of view of a young 9 1/2 year old you get a clear picture of life in Europe at this time and his close relationship with his older brother
Joy (joyous reads)
Sep 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Short and sweet, this is the story of a couple of brothers who found themselves fleeing the Russian occupied Hungary. They trudged through minefields along with their family to get to the Austrian border. They planned to head to Paris, where a relative awaits them. Through equal parts humour, horror, and refreshing wonder, the brothers would discover the importance of home as they struggle to accept immeasurable losses brought on by the war.

Incongruous humour.

For some reason, I can’t seem to mo
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historic-fiction
Lyrical, tragic and life affirming are the elements of this novel. In 1956, as the Russian quash the Hungarian revolution, the Beck family escapes. The parents, older son, Attila and grandparents survived WWII due to the protection of Rauol Wallenberg and his assistant, Paul Beck, their cousin. As they travel from Budapest to Paris by way of Vienna, the boys, Attila, almost 14 and Robert almost 10 learn more about the family history during the war and its aftermath. Very well written and interes ...more
Mar 16, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was weird. Slow and meandering and if there was a plot in there I couldn't find it or care about it. Basically two weird brothers go on a not so interesting ride through Europe. I expected it to be a lot more interesting. ...more
Sarah Bellstedt
Jul 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Giving this an extra star for Attila.
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
4 to 4.5 stars - Two young brothers (9 and 13) try to make sense of the world as they flee Hungary in 1956 with their family.
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
A challenging read in that it was difficult to relate to the narrator / main protagonist.
Stephen Gallup
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's somewhat difficult to comment on this book, even though I found it engaging and easy to read.

The problem seems to be that I needed time to decide what it's about.

It's not about the ill-fated 1956 Hungarian uprising, although that sets the stage.

It's not even about the family displaced by that event, including the young narrator or his very inquisitive big brother.

And I also don't think it's about the family's long-held secrets that the brother begins uncovering.

All the above, and the vari
Raymond Rockwell
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
[Mark Twain and] I like this book because it has no weather in it. But it does feature Mark
"himself" when one of the doting relatives gives the brothers a set of Huck and Tom.
This is a fine book: for me, a one sitting. It's the story of an extended Beck family fleeing foreign oppression, some from Hitler and, later, some from Stalin. Escape, adventure, mystery, discovery,
loss--a welter of questions and dubious outcomes
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
"Afterlife of Stars" is a story of a Jewish family escaping the revolution in Hungary after narrowly escaping imprisonment and death during the Holocaust. Robert, born after WWII, narrates the novel, and he is an observant, thoughtful boy. His older brother, Attila, is impulsive, determined, and possibly mentally ill. Attila drags his younger brother on questionable adventures as their family prepares to leave Budapest, via Austria, to an aunt in Paris.
There are many family secrets, mostly abou
Well, I really wanted to read this book because there are very few novels about the Hungarian revolution, and I wanted to learn something about it. But this book was really about two brothers and their strange relationship with each other and their family. The older brother, Attilla, was extremely strange and unlikable, although very intelligent. I was amazed by how the family didn't even seem to notice that their son was very disturbed, and of course the things they had all seen and experienced ...more
Seema ♥Nerdgirl♥
Done with it. At last!
When I first saw this, I was excited as it was about brothers, but I ended up hating it. It seemed to be promising at first. Sadly, the rest turned out to be all so stupid.
It was so boring. Also, most of the chapters seem too long, which I'm not a fan of. When I read a book, I like chapters to be not too long and not too short. And the paragraphs were too long, which bored me to death.
Plus, the characters were not interesting to me. The older brother, Attila was very imm
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story fascinated me. Hungary was the home of some of my ancestors, and to see the life of Jews there in the 50s was eye-opening to me. I loved the characters. The older brother was very strange, he talked to his brother almost as if they were lovers, but at other times the interaction between older and younger sibling was very believable. Their situation, as refugees, is very timely, given the the current issues facing the United States. The mysteries around their family's past were realisti ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: hungary
This is just the kind of story I typically like reading - a young (Jewish) boy is whisked from Hungary with his parents, older brother and grandmother early in the 1956 Hungarian uprising. The family has the money and means to get out, stay with an aunt in Paris briefly and go on the Canada, where there is also family. What a contrast to anyone trying to flee a war zone now! The contrast was definitely one of the interests of the book. There is humor, a family history of miraculous survival of t ...more
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Joseph Kertes was born in Hungary (1951) but escaped with his family to Canada after the revolution of 1956.

He studied English at York University and the University of Toronto, where he was encouraged in his writing by Irving Layton and Marshall McLuhan.

Kertes founded Humber College's distinguished creative writing and comedy programs. He is currently Humber's Dean of Creative and Performing Art

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