Under the Same Stars – Alexandra Heminsley

This was a slow starter for me but I am glad I carried on reading as it rewarded continuing. I have enjoyed Alexandra Heminsley’s writing in the past – her running book was really good – and I was interested to see how she managed to turn her hand to fiction.

The story concerns Clara who, after her father’s death, finds out that she has another sister, the product of her father’s first marriage. Her father has asked her to connect with Maggie, the other sister, who lives a hermit’s life in the Arctic.

The seemingly every day trials of a 20-something didn’t immediately grab me but as the story developed and more layers were added, I found myself wanting to read more.

The journey itself is quite interesting, although just as I’d started to warm to Clara, she immediately lost her passport and I tutted in an old womany judgy way (before remembering that I once threw away a return plane ticket by mistake when in St Petersburg so…) Anyway, it’s not plain sailing as you can imagine, especially when she reaches the Arctic area.

There is a sub-plot involving Clara’s boyfriend, which could have been made more dramatic and bombastic by another writer but was done well here. The quiet reflective nature of the sisters and their relationship was sensitively drawn and realistic. I was also relieved that Heminsley did not opt for a big showdown at the end but again, the drama was realistic and had depth and just enough tension. This is a quiet, layered book, well written and character-led. A strong debut novel.

Under the Same Stars is published on 21 July by Little Brown. My thanks to Netgalley and Little Brown for the review copy.

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