Review: A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

An exquisite, heartbreakingly beautiful gem of a novel for anyone who loved Wonder, Lenny’s Book of EverythingA Monster Calls or When You Reach Me.

‘Heart-twisting and hopeful, bursting with big feelings and gentle magic. This is a special book from a powerful, compassionate new voice in children’s literature, destined to be read and loved for generations and held close in many hearts (including mine).’ – Jessica Townsend, New York Times bestselling author of the Nevermoor series

Meixing Lim and her family have arrived at the New House in the New Land, inherited from First Uncle who died tragically and unexpectedly while picking oranges in the backyard. Everything is vast and unknown to Meixing and not in a good way, including the house she has dubbed Big Scary. She is embarrassed by the second-hand shoes given to her by the kind neighbours, has trouble understanding the language at school, and with fitting in and making new friends. Her solace is a glasshouse in the garden that inexplicably holds the sun and the moon and all the secrets of her memory and imagination.

Her fragile universe is rocked when tragedy strikes and Ma Ma refuses to face the world outside. Meixing finds herself trapped within the shrinking walls of Big Scary. Her parents said this would be a better life for them all, but it feels like the worst and most heart-breaking experience of Meixing’s entire existence. Surviving will take all the resilience and inner belief of this brave girl to turn their world around.

Published 4 May 2021 |  Publisher: Penguin Random House  |  RRP: AUD$16.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  |  QBD

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I can’t stop staring at that gorgeous cover! Combined with a magical title and a protagonist with a familiar name (a personal reference which I’ll leave just as vague) who had to face a new strange place, I couldn’t wait to dive in.

As an immigrant myself, I sort of knew what the protagonist was feeling as she first arrived in the New Land and yet, there are enough differences in our experiences that my heart broke for this brave girl. I did think that the author was a bit mean when a particular tragedy strike but life happens and despite my tears, I was glad that the tragedy did bring something good too. I loved Meixing and her friends as they each found their way to rise above their own problems.

To start with, it took a while to adjust my headspace to reading this book. Mostly due to the second person POV but also how places are just so very non-specific/neutral (eg. ‘New House’, ‘New Land’, etc). It is just different than the norm, I think, that I really needed to think differently. Other than that, it was done very well and I do feel very much like I’m stepping in Meixing’s shoes.

My boys and I adored Little Jiang which I read aloud as their bed time read and it was just such a fun read! Unfortunately, I was unable to read this aloud to my boys. I tried for a few nights but my youngest has this aversion against the second person POV. He is only 6 years old and this may have been the first time he came across a second person POV as this isn’t one you’d come across that often in books. He just didn’t feel that it’s right and he got so upset, I had to stop and finished reading on my own. I’ll make a note to try this on him again in a few years’ time!

Magic appears to be an indication of feels in this novel. Mostly it is of hope but at times, it also reflects despair. I do love magic in my books but I am sometimes stumped by magical realism which I feel is where this book leans towards. I’m happy to take the magic as is even as I feel that there is something else going on there.

A Glasshouse of Stars is a powerfully moving novel as readers are, perforce, within protagonist’s headspace and looking out through her eyes so we are privileged in knowing all her thoughts and feelings. Readers can expect to feel the wonder of the New House & Glasshouse, the fear of the unknown, the hope for the future, oh there were just so much! Do read this with your children and persist through the difference in narrative because it’s such a wonderful novel.

My thanks to Shirley Marr for this paperback copy of book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Shirley Marr is a first-generation Chinese-Australian living in Perth and an author of young adult and children’s fiction, including YA novels Fury and Preloved, and children’s novels Little Jiang and A Glasshouse of Stars. She describes herself as having a Western mind and an Eastern heart. She likes to write in the space in the middle where they both collide, basing her stories on her own personal experiences of migration and growing up in Australia, along with the folk and fairy tales from her mother. Arriving in mainland Australia from Christmas Island as a seven-year-old in the 1980s and experiencing the good, the bad and the wonder that comes with culture shock, Shirley has been in love with reading and writing from that early age. Shirley is a universe full of stars and stories and hopes to share the many other novels that she has inside her.

Find Shirley on:  

goodreads  |  website  |  instagram

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