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  • This is a great historical novel.

    Jessica Dall’s novel, The Stars of Heaven, starts with headstrong, seventeen-year-old Senhorita Cecelia Madalena de Santa Rita e Durante sneaking out of her mother’s house to go to her uncle’s house to ask him to take the family across town so that she can go to Mass with her older brother, Father Francisco Durante. Tio (uncle) Aloisio Durante can’t help her because he has a meeting, and he instructs his English house guest, John Bates, to escort Cecelia back to her home. On the way to her home, a massive earthquake hits Lisbon, Portugal and Cecelia is covered with debris and is trapped under a large crucifix that broke her rib. The earthquake in the year 1755 levels most of the city. John Bates and Cecelia walk four hours out of town to her uncle’s vineyard and country estate. Cecelia is worried about the survival of her mother and Bibiana, her ten-year old sister. She sneaks back into Lisbon and finds her mother’s house, which is totally destroyed. She has to flee from looters and runs into an army troop led by a man on horseback, who turns out to be the kings “master”. One of the soldier’s tell Cecelia that her brother is ministering to people living in tents on the east side of town. She and John Bates find her brother and incommunicable little sister who does nothing but pray the rosary in Latin. Cecelia’s uncle sees a romance developing between Cecelia and the protestant Englishman and he sends John Bates back to England. The rest of the book is about Cecelia survival in the post-earthquake Lisbon society during the period of the Catholic Inquisition. I found myself hoping that Cecelia and John would get back together. I’d never heard of the Lisbon earthquake. This is a great historical novel. The characters and the flow of the plot are captivating. I gained a better understanding of some differences between the Portuguese and Spanish people. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and highly recommend it.

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