Theresa Smith's Reviews > Star-crossed

Star-crossed by Minnie Darke
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it was amazing
bookshelves: australian-novels, aww2019

This was an utterly delightful novel. If you’re a fan of movies such as Love Actually, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day – as I am – then this is the novel for you! It’s both smart and funny, it doesn’t take itself too seriously but still manages to captivate and delight. And even though the story revolves around astrology, you don’t have to actually know anything about, or even like, astrology to love this novel.

Justine is a journalist who has been slogging away as a copy runner for a few years while waiting in the wings for a promotion at the magazine she works at. She has an awesome memory, works hard, and is a stickler for accuracy, so much so, she carries around a sharpie so she can correct the many misspellings and errors that appear on signs and menus and programs and pretty much any other thing she spots while out and about. I can’t tell you how much I loved this! I could feel Justine’s pain at seeing all of these errors, and I totally admired her confidence in the need for accuracy that drove her to correct everything she ever came across. She was a classic over-thinker, another aspect of her personality I could relate to, even though we are not actually the same star sign! To give you a taste of Justine, here is a little extract I loved that showcases her to perfection:

But even now, as she stood in the semi-dark of her living room, hands on hips, Justine understood that, henceforth, her curtains were going to be an issue. The curtains in question, pale green and damask, were a relic of Fleur Carmichael’s occupancy of the Evelyn Towers apartment, and although Justine knew that she should just fling them open – in the normal careless way that she always did at around this time on a weekday morning – she found it wasn’t that simple any more. What if Nick thought she was looking in on him, or inviting a conversation? Maybe she should wait, until, say, seven-thirty? Evenings were going to be equally problematic. To close, or not to close? When to close? And then there were the weekends. If she shut her curtains at an unusual time, Nick might think she was doing something weird behind them. But if she didn’t close her curtains, he might think that she wanted him to see whatever she was doing – weird or not. Justine wondered if there was, set out in a reference book somewhere, a standard opening and closing protocol for curtains: some kind of code, the adherence to which would ensure that her curtain behaviour could be in no way construed as strange or inappropriate.

When Justine bumps into her oldest friend, Nick, after years apart, their friendship is renewed, and for Justine, so are all of those old feelings that she ended up developing as an angsty teenager. Nick is mad about astrology, basing many of his decisions on what is written in his stars, and is a huge fan of the astrologer who writes the monthly column at the magazine Justine works for. Justine thinks it’s all rubbish, but when she gets promoted to contributions manager at the magazine, a part of her job is to transcribe the monthly astrology column, and that’s when the games begin. Justine begins to alter the monthly entry for Aquarius, Nick’s star sign, engineering the messages in a way that she hopes will steer him in her direction.

“What I want to know is, does someone really love you when all they ever want to do is change you into something that you’re not?”
It had worked, Justine realised. Her horoscope had absolutely worked. Cocooned inside Nick’s oversized woollen jumper, she was hardly able to believe that it had really, actually, properly worked to set off some doubts that were already there, lurking in his mind.

While Nick doesn’t always act in the way Justine anticipates, she keeps on meddling, upping the ante to force his hand her way. What she doesn’t realise, is that so many other people are also reading the Aquarius column and making decisions based on her bogus entries. This is where the novel wings its way into Love Actually/New Year’s Eve/Valentine’s Day territory, with these multiple stories of people with connections to each other. This was all so perfectly executed, and as the novel progresses, the many connections become more and more apparent. It was really lovely, and very clever. As you can expect, all goes very wrong before it ends up going right. But this story is in no way formulaic, it’s fresh and original, and always entertaining.

Yes, she had made an idiot of him, but even worse than that, she had taken something from him. She’d spoiled it: his one little sprinkling of magic in an otherwise pragmatic world – a harmless handful of stardust and mystery, once a month, on the page of a magazine.

I loved the arrangement of this novel, with the chapters following the astrology year, beginning and ending with Aquarius. Within each chapter, time was devoted to Justine, and then to all of the other characters whose lives were being affected by the dodgy Aquarius entries. The prose was delightful, with this old world style of storytelling narration that put me in mind of Jane Austen and William Makepeace Thackeray, where everyone was introduced via a witty bio (see below for the author’s own bio as a sample of this) with the continuing narration peppered with comic banter and random incidentals. I really enjoyed Minnie Darke’s writing style and look forward to reading more books by her. She’s a fantastic writer, so witty and smooth, the storyline of Star-crossed so clever and with such brilliant on point character development. I also really enjoyed the magazine setting, with the daily workings and the interactions between Justine and her co-workers. The journalist in me got a real kick out of it all. This is one novel I can’t recommend highly enough, there’s a lot to love about it. I’m going to be gifting this one to more than a few people this year, you can be sure!


Thanks is extended to Penguin Random House for providing me with a copy of Star-crossed for review.

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Reading Progress

March 15, 2019 – Started Reading
March 15, 2019 – Shelved
March 17, 2019 – Shelved as: australian-novels
March 17, 2019 – Shelved as: aww2019
March 17, 2019 – Finished Reading

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