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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and ambitious plotting
I’ve been working my way through Louise Wener’s novels and I have reached her third “The Half Life of Stars”. It’s been interesting to chart her development as a writer. In many ways her third novel is a more ambitious story than either of her first two books, although there are some thematic similarities; Claire’s search for her...
Published 12 months ago by Ian Kirkpatrick

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3.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Disappearance
Daniel and Claire are teenagers when their family suddenly relocates to Miami for their father's work. Confronted with an ugly apartment, a father always at work refurbishing a hotel, a mother permanently stoned and an irritating small sister (the 'good' one in the family), they each retreat to private interests: Claire to flirting with the local handsome Spanish boys on...
Published 2 months ago by Kate Hopkins


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and ambitious plotting, 2 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: The Half Life of Stars (Paperback)
I’ve been working my way through Louise Wener’s novels and I have reached her third “The Half Life of Stars”. It’s been interesting to chart her development as a writer. In many ways her third novel is a more ambitious story than either of her first two books, although there are some thematic similarities; Claire’s search for her missing brother Daniel could almost be an echo of Audrey’s search for her missing father in The Big Blind.

However one of the most striking differences is Wener’s growing confidence with dialogue. The conversational flow in this novel is excellent, and I really enjoyed the voice that Wener gives to Claire, her main protagonist, which is spiky, awkward and belligerent. I loved the character’s ability to deal with the cruel and dismissive put-downs from her dysfunctional family, which made me root for her all the more. The plotting within the novel is also well-handled with a host of seemingly disconnected plot threads becoming slowly intertwined and eventually resolved.

The American section of the novel is particularly powerful and I loved the descriptions of the scenery, the way of life, and the acutely-observed details with which Wener weaves a rich tapestry.

The characterisation is really strong, and despite the reasonably large cast there is a clear differentiation between the various characters. I enjoyed the pace of her writing, and found that I had quickly devoured the book without being aware of the passage of time.

If I have any criticism it’s probably directed towards the epilogue which I simply found too long. Although it’s very cleverly done, my feeling is that it would have been much more powerful at a quarter of the length. Sometimes less can be more.

However overall I found this to be both readable and satisfying, which seems a good balance.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Disappearance, 8 Dec. 2014
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Half Life of Stars (Paperback)
Daniel and Claire are teenagers when their family suddenly relocates to Miami for their father's work. Confronted with an ugly apartment, a father always at work refurbishing a hotel, a mother permanently stoned and an irritating small sister (the 'good' one in the family), they each retreat to private interests: Claire to flirting with the local handsome Spanish boys on the beach and to learning Spanish, Daniel to running and studying astronomy. And it's Daniel's love of astronomy that leads his Dad to take him, in a peace offering, to watch the Challenger space shuttle take off. But the trip will end in disaster - not just for the astronauts when their shuttle crashes, but for Daniel and his Dad.

Years later, Daniel appears to have put this all behind him. He's an ideal modern citizen, a high-ranking lawyer, with an attractive blonde wife, Kay, and an adorable baby son, Julian. He has all that the rational heart could desire, in contrast to Claire, who's divorced, scratching out a living as a freelance translator and unable to hold onto any of her boyfriends. But Daniel's life's not so hot after all - for one night he mysteriously disappears, leaving no message. His family are prepared to give him up as dead - all except Claire. And when, via a mysterious trail including an enigmatic story told by a Japanese waitress in a sushi restaurant that Daniel frequented, and an encounter with an eccentric Russian sailor, Claire finds out that Daniel's almost certainly gone back to Miami, she decides to follow. With her unstable ex-husband Michael in tow, Claire flies to the States. There, she and Michael lodge with Huey, an ex-actor with alopecia and a series of fixations, and Tess his insecure anorexic girlfriend, while Claire feverishly searches for Daniel. And what she finds is not at all what she expects...

The ideas behind the book - particularly that an early trauma can resurface later in life, sometimes without you realising for ages - were interesting, and the reasons for what happened to Daniel convincing and even moving. There were also some lovely descriptions of Miami, and I liked the way that the narrative slipped between past and present. The feisty but insecure Claire was periodically a compelling narrator, and I liked the way Wener contrasted the siblings. The story of the Yonigeya was also fascinating. However, for all its good points, there was something about this book that never quite pulled me in. For all the urgency of finding Daniel, there were long periods that dragged (particularly the story of Huey and Tess and their endless woes). Claire's family made an improbable shift from being wildly dysfunctional to seeming warm and caring in the later scenes - and the whole subplot about the Portuguese pastry cook who switched allegiance from Claire to her sister Sylvie was very underdeveloped. The early scenes made it seem as though Claire was almost a victim of emotional abuse, and I felt she'd have been a more vulnerable and damaged (and angrier) person than she seemed to be as a result of this. The wisecracks sometimes felt a bit forced, and I found Claire's ex-husband and the whole 'should she go back to him' side of the plot a waste of time - Michael just wasn't a very interesting character. As another reviewer pointed out, for a story all about emotional and physical journeys, Claire didn't seem to have come to much self-realisation by the end (other than in a couple of crucial areas) and though this may have been the point, it did seem rather a pity. And the meteorologist could have played a bigger role, particularly as Wener brought him back in the book's final stages.

Ultimately, there was a lot I admired about this book, but I never felt that emotionally involved. Still, it did make me think that Wener is a talented author, and I would read another of her books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not quite good enough, 22 May 2008
By 
Mr. Robert A. Emms "Bobbybox67" (West Sussex) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Half Life of Stars (Paperback)
Mmmm, not really sure about this book. Bought and read the book on the back of (i) Louise Wener's power as a songwriter in Sleeper and (ii) reviews on the Amazon site. Ended up feeling half fullfilled. Is it a 'girly book'? I don't think so, but it never sucked me in, it was never unputdownable.

It's well written, and has passages of intrigue and sort of suspense, but it all ends up with a bit of an easy ending that leaves a sense of unfullfillment.

Very readable but not as good as her lyrics from the mid 90's.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Filled with unsympathetic characters, 28 Aug. 2012
By 
Anne (Sheffield, Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Half Life of Stars (Paperback)
Claire's brother has disappeared. It seems to be connected to the death of his father some years ago at the launch of the space shuttle when the family were living in America. Claire goes to find her brother with her ex-partner and follows his trail back to where her father has died.

The story for this book is slight (although many authors have written fine books with less plot). Claire and her family are dysfunctional and whining people. Her ex-partner is a user and the people she meets with in America are a bit silly. Claire does not discover what really happened that summer in America and she doesn't resolve the problems in her family or in her own life.

I didn't feel involved with the search for Daniel and I didn't really care what happened to the family or any of the characters as none of them came across as people I would want to spend time with were they real. The premise for the book was good but I didn't enjoy reading the story the author wrote.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Captivating... well, for half of it, 12 Sept. 2008
By 
K. Whelton (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Half Life of Stars (Paperback)
After thoroughly enjoying The Big Blind, I have taken an interest in the works of Louise Wener.
The first few chapters spell out the recognizable traits in Louise's work; her clever wit, interesting characters and intelligent narrative, creating awkward moments we all know so well.

The Half Life of Stars is a rather simple affair, yet written with many pockets of emotion, puzzle and delight.
The journey searching for Claire's missing brother, Daniel is a sad, complex yet interesting and funny tale. However, I felt this start to dry out towards the second half of the book. I felt I could skip to the end, just to find out if/how they find Daniel and could miss out a chunk of the book.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even better than her other books, 31 Mar. 2007
By 
NB (Middlesbrough, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Half Life of Stars (Paperback)
This is a really good story of a missing brother and his sister who tries to find him, and why a tragic event that happened 20 years might have been the trigger.

She sets off to find him after he disappears from his seemingly perfect life, taking in dodgy Japanese restaurants in Soho, promiscuous sex, snakes, Miami, Russian sailors, kidnapping Harvey Weinstein, art deco, and alkie mums along the way.

Although I liked her first two books, I REALLY liked this. You can tell she has grown as a writer, as this tale is told with much less clunky language, but like the guy in 'Goodnight Steve McQueen', you care about the main character, the flawed Claire, and root for her on her mission to find her brother, and a bit of herself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Adore it, 19 July 2012
This review is from: The Half Life of Stars (Paperback)
It's a great books, with complex characters and extremely well-written.

It's a really interesting read, and one of my favourite books.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adictive fiction by Louise Wener, 25 Jun. 2006
By 
A. Memari "AZZA" (Peak District, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Half Life of Stars (Paperback)
I read this book in just three days i could not put it down. In the past i had always liked Sleepers music and lyrics so i decided to try one of Weners novels. I was not disapointed with this book, it is rich in charactor discription, fantastic dialogue and a great plot. I ahve since read the the big blind and Good night steve Mcqueen and i cant wait for her next book to come out.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast becoming one of my favourite authors, 9 Aug. 2008
By 
Sarah Durston (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Half Life of Stars (Paperback)
Claire is a divorcee who is part of a stifling and critical family to whom she seems to be a constant disappointment. Her strongest relationship is with her older brother, Daniel. Late one night Claire receives a phone call from her sister in law to say that Daniel has gone missing. Claire must piece together everything she knows about her brother in order to find him and bring him home.

I really loved `The Big Blind' so I was interested to see if Louise Wener's next book would be as good. It definitely was! The characters are well drawn and believable and the plot is wonderful. The narrative goes backwards and forwards, from the past to the present, so that we can better understand Daniel and Claire and what her brought them both to this point. Wener never takes the obvious path and yet the story remains believable and compelling. The subject matter could have lead to something very `worthy' but a lightness of touch and some great characters lead to some great humorous moments.

Another brilliant book, I can't wait to see what she does next.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious & Heart-felt, 28 Sept. 2007
This review is from: The Half Life of Stars (Paperback)
What a fantastic read! not the usual genre i would go for but when its written by a fantastic musician like Louise Wener its worth a try and i was not disappointed!We enter into the lives of Claire and her dysfunctional family becoming part of the trials and tribulations of their lives. When Claire's brother goes missing you are brought even further into their world moving between their past and their present.

Wener's writing is fabulous mixing the heartfelt struggles of a broken girl in search of her "mental" brother with the hilarious lives of her strange American friends Huey & Tess. You literally become part of her crazy life, the tiny little back street japanese restaurant with the insulting waitress, scarey russian sailors, snakes named after harvey weinstein, and then the kidnappng of his namesake. Through these events claire is not only able to find her brother, she helps to piece back together the relationships in her family and realise who she is and what she wants.

A fantastic text, beautifully written, without a doubt one of the best books iv read this year...not to be missed
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The Half Life of Stars
The Half Life of Stars by Louise Wener (Paperback - 8 Mar. 2007)
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