A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley MarrA Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr
Narrator: Jillian Nguyen
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
Published on 4 May 2021
Genres: 20th Century, Adolescence, Social Issues
Pages: 288
Format: Audiobook
Source: my local library
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RRP: $16.99
4 Stars

WINNER, CBCA Book of the Year - Younger Readers 2022WINNER, WA Premier’s Book Awards - Writing for Children 2021

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.

A Glasshouse of Stars is based on the real childhood experiences of the author, brushed with a light touch of magic realism.

This is a touching and poignant middle-grade novel that explores themes of family, friendship, and belonging.

The story follows the a-mazing Meixing Lim, a young girl who immigrates to Australia with her family from a small island that is never identified, but was most likely near China. Struggling to adapt to her new home and feeling like an outsider, Meixing finds solace in her strong imagination and her friendship with an unpredictable boy next door. But when her father dies, leaving her  Meixing and her heavily pregnant mother alone in a land where they are newly arrived and both struggle with the unfamiliar language, Meixing must find the courage to speak up and seek help.

Marr’s writing is beautiful and evocative, capturing both the wonder and the uncertainty of childhood in a new and unfamiliar place. The characters are richly drawn and multi-dimensional, and the relationships between them feel authentic and heartfelt. The story tackles difficult themes with sensitivity and grace, offering a message of hope and resilience that will resonate with readers of all ages.

It should be mentioned that this entire book is written in second person POV (“you said”). I’m not quite sure how Marr managed it, but most fiction written in second person tries to make the character feel like the reader. In this instance, second person POV worked well for an entire novel because Marr made the reader feel like the character. The audiobook was skilfully narrated, and I think having the book read out loud made the second person POV much easier to digest. It might be more jarring always reading ‘you’ in print.

Overall, A Glasshouse of Stars is a deeply moving and thought-provoking story that is sure to leave a lasting impression. Highly recommended for anyone who loves stories about family, friendship, and the power of the human spirit.


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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