Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.
***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***
Hold Back the Stars
Imagine that you only have 90 minutes of life left and you’re spending that time with the love of your life. Oh and minor detail, you’re floating in space in space suits. Hold Back the Stars is a love story set in an utopian future and sees two lovers deliberating over the ultimate sacrifice.
This book is an excellent debut from author Katie Khan. The story line is incredibly original and I enjoyed that it was set in the future. I thought it was refreshing that Khan wrote the future as utopian rather than dystopian, but like all societies through history it was not perfect.
I found the technical talk specifically in the first third of the book made me lose my interest at times. It sometimes got a bit too heavy or continued for too long for me personally. So, I would at times find my mind wandering and not realise what I’d just read. However, the book picks up after the initial section and I found myself gripped for the rest of the book.
I thought the non-linear timeline where the book alternated from Carys and Max in space to scenes in the past, but on earth worked really well. It was an excellent way to see how their relationship grew.
Reading about the loss of Carys and Max’s baby was very difficult, but I thought it was sensitively written about. Their reflection on their baby was very moving. I loved this quote about the afterlife:
“The afterlife is what we leave in others”
I also enjoyed their analysis of what utopia truly is, whilst they were floating in space:
“In Greek, Utopia means ‘no place’….a perfect place isn’t a political state or a philosophical movement. It’s this, it’s us”
Hold Back the Stars is a very visual book and it makes sense that the author herself works in the film industry. I found myself imagining the book being turned into a film as I read it and my research tells me that it is indeed going to be film (produced by the same people that produce Stranger Things and Arrival and directed by the director of Riverdale).
Whilst, at first I was slightly confused about how the author was continuing the story in the final section, it eventually made sense. The end scene was incredibly moving and possibly one of the most beautiful and stunning endings for a book that I have ever read.
Often, I don’t like to see the film version of a book that I’ve read, but because of the spectacular visions that you imagine whilst reading this book, I cannot wait to see the film.
This is a very promising debut and I would be very interested to read another novel by the same author.
Questions to Consider
1. In Hold Back the Stars, the author uses dual time lines to tell the story of Max and Carys’s journey to space. In what ways does this enhance the story? Which time line did you feel more connected to?
2. Carys and Max had radically different upbringings from each other. How do their philosophies differ on utopian ideals?
3. In Europia, the individual is prized above all else, yet there is a particular irony in a utopian society valuing individualism. In what ways does Carys see that, and how is Max blinded to it?
4. According to the Couples Rule, romantic couples are not allowed to form until an individual reaches thirty-five. How could this rule benefit our own society? How might it hurt it? How would the rule affect your own life?
5. Max says, “We show our true colors facing the end” (p. 75). Do you agree? Why or why not?
6. As part of a Founding Family, what kind of pressures was Max feeling during his relationship with Carys? Do you think he was justified in feeling the way he did in the beginning?
7. How does the author use details to highlight themes or plot points in each time line? For example, the origin of the crumpled daisy in Carys’s ear does not become evident until after the two time lines converge.
8. Max’s parents essentially excommunicate him after he reveals his relationship with Carys. Can you think of parallel examples in our own society of this kind of familial rejection?
9. Which “ending” seems the most realistic to you? What kind of choice would you have made in the same scenario?
10. How did Carys and Max each cope without the other? What did their coping mechanisms communicate about their personalities?
11. Hold Back the Stars confronts the idea of choice—or lack thereof—and the question of whether true freedom can exist in a utopian society. In what ways were Carys and Max free? How did their concept of freedom change throughout the story?
12. Neither Carys nor Max can live without the other in their respective “endings.” Do you think it’s possible that, for some people, time cannot heal certain wounds?
13. How do you interpret the last chapter of Hold Back the Stars in light of the alternating perspectives of Carys and Max?
14. What were the best examples of strong relationships in Hold Back the Stars? What made them strong? How did Europia foster—or hinder—forming relationships?
15. What do you think it means to do something for the “greater good”? Can a utopian society exist without its citizens striving for a common “greater” cause?
March’s book is Slade House by David Mitchell. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Tuesday 3rd April.
A list of all the books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2018 can be found here
I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here