Of course I am aware that we are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but goodness me, the cover art for todays' book is absolutely stunning. However, it was the premise of On a Night of a Thousand Stars by Andrea Yaryura Clark that initially caught my attention. Set in two different years, over 20 years apart, a young woman discovers the long hidden history of her family and its position during Argentina's "Dirty War."
The Situation: It is 1998, and a young Argentine American college student is leading a charmed and somewhat sheltered life. Paloma Larrea is currently away from New York, spending time with her family in Buenos Aires. Just as her father, Santiago, a wealthy Argentine diplomat, is about to be assigned as the country's UN Ambassador, Paloma receives a hint from an old family friend that there is more to her father than she ever knew. And when it becomes clear that Santiago has no interest in revisiting the past, Paloma only becomes more curious, though she may not be prepared for what she is about to uncover.
The Problem: The 1970s were a tumultuous time for Argentina. Santiago is a wealthy and attractive young law student who is next in line to take over the family estate and business, though he is currently more concerned with conquering attractive women and enjoying his life. It is not until he meets Valentina Quintero that a woman has ever made him even begin to consider settling down. But Argentina's challenging political climate, along with a few other factors, will work against the couple. And as Paloma continues to dig into her father's past, she may unwittingly unearth an old threat to her and her family's safety.
Genre, Themes, History: This is a historical fiction novel set both in 1976 and 1998, in and around the city of Buenos Aires. In 1998, Paloma Larrea looks into her family's history during 1970s Argentina, particularly in the years leading up to the military dictatorship of 1976. It is during this time that many civilians became a target of the government, and not just the most obvious and outspoken protesters and activists. Eventually, writers, musicians, artists, even those that were known to heavily read and discuss books became targets, along with anyone close to them. The word "disappeared" became an adjective to describe those that would seemingly vanish one day, impossible to find unless someone had connections, and/or a lot of money. When Paloma begins her search, she thinks she is only looking into her father's past activity as an activist, but she uncovers an entire hidden history.
My Verdict: When I first began reading, I found myself far more interested in what was taking place in 1976 than in what was happening with Paloma in 1998. In the beginning, there simply was not much about the naive, unconcerned, and somewhat unexceptional Paloma that held my interest. However, the two timelines eventually come together to create an intriguing story that they both contribute to equally. While the Argentina in 1976 is in a different place politically from the Argentina in 1998, Clark manages to marry the two to create one attractive and interesting story. With Santiago and Valentina in 1976, and Paloma in 1998, everything comes together to present an Argentina that is all at once tragic and redemptive.
Favorite Moment: It is hard for me to point to any one moment in the book. In general, I enjoyed Paloma's journey and her growth as a character over the course of the novel.
Favorite Character: As I already mentioned, Paloma came into her own and I enjoyed watching it happen.