When 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. The year is 1956, and as their country changes forever, these two boys transform as well, confronting danger and wonders previously unknown.
As they travel through minefields both real and imagined, Robert and Attila grapple with sibling rivalry, family secrets, and incalculable loss. Along the way they encounter mysterious fellow travelers, bewildering sights of a nation in transition, and surprising hilarity, all in pursuit of the one place they thought they'd lost forever: home.
Elegant, tender, and deeply funny, Joseph Kertes has crafted a journey filled with adventure and heartbreak. A meditation on both family and displacement, The Afterlife of Stars is a tale of perseverance, faith, and the unbreakable bond of brotherhood.
"Kertes, who himself escaped Hungary after the 1956 revolution, delivers a fast paced and taut narrative that captures how inscrutable the world's cruelties can be to the children who witness them. Stirring and haunting, The Afterlife of Stars memorably shows how the bonds of brotherhood stay strong in a crisis." (Bridget Thoreson, Booklist)
"[A] fervent novel. Kertes (Gratitude, 2009), winner of the National Jewish Book Award, begins his newest work in his own native Budapest.... [Protagonists] Robert and Attila are a winning pair of guides.... Kertes' voice is a lyrical one, and his work is frequently moving." (Kirkus Reviews)
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feels like the middle of a longer book
I love reading stories set around World War Two but for me the book did not set itself into its time period well. It starts with a family being told to leave their home. We don't know anything about the family or the context, except what we see through a child's eyes. The family dynamics are well shown but that's about it. There's a good scene at the station when the father bargains for tickets to leave, but there is no tension or drama. I found it hard to work out the passage of time in the story and figure out if anything was happening. It's like a piece of art that everyone raves about and you just don't get it.
I disliked the silly accents but the narrator was consistent and yes, he did a good job of different characters.
I was hugely disappointed and frustrated. I don't need a history book as I'm already familiar with the period in history, but this honestly felt like someone had ripped out the start of the book and expected the reader / listener not to mind. I don't mind books starting mid story but I kept thinking maybe more backstory would be revealed and it didn't happen.
I didn't enjoy this book so I can't recommend it. The focus is on family, conversation,and the narrow views of a teenage boy. Sadly there is no drama, tension or action. Even if you are aware of World War Two and Hungary and the terrible things people experienced, this does not come across. It is a micro look at one family, at one period in time and from a child's perspective. I realise a child narrator can't provide a comment on world events but there was a lot of description typical of a teenage boy - watching women undress and how babies are made and very little of interest to me.