Isabelle Broom’s latest novel, One Thousand Stars and You, is set in Sri Lanka, not somewhere I know at all. However, I was confident that I could vicariously travel there because Isabelle Broom writes about place so very well. She took me to Prague in A Year and a Day and that’s still tiding me over until I actually go.
Alice is settling down. It might not be the adventurous life she once imagined, but more than anything she wants to make everyone happy – her steady boyfriend, her over-protective mother – even if it means a little part of her will always feel stifled.
Max is shaking things up. After a devastating injury, he is determined to prove himself. To find the man beyond the disability, to escape his smothering family and go on an adventure.
A trip to Sri Lanka is Alice’s last hurrah – her chance to throw herself into the heat, chaos and colour of a place thousands of miles from home. It’s also the moment she meets Max.
Alice doesn’t know it yet, but her whole life is about to change. Max doesn’t know it yet, but he’s the one who’s going to change it.
Before we’re whisked away to Sri Lanka, we see Alice at home and this shows us why we she so badly needs this exotic trip, filled with the possibility for adventure. I was as relieved as Alice that her friends Maureen and Steph had persuaded her to go on this joint 30th birthday celebration trip, and was willing her not to cancel. (I know she wouldn’t have because otherwise this would have been a short book but I was pretty anxious for her to leave the UK behind for a couple of weeks.)
When the story switches to Sri Lanka, Isabelle Broom lands you right in all the colour and chaos of Sri Lanka from airport arrivals through taxi transfers, tuk tuk rides and packed train journeys to night-time mountain climbs to see the sunrise and onto a photogenic safari with a hairy encounter. She describes the scenery and animal life, the heat and humidity, the tastes and sounds of the country so well that I imagined myself there. I could understand why Alice comes alive there and feels more her true self.
That Alice and her friends hook up with Max and his friend and travel together is something that feels natural. It happens when you’re travelling. And sometimes you get lucky and meet someone who’ll be important to you and won’t just ride a couple of stops along the way. It’s the best kind of holiday romance when you meet someone who can see the real you, and encourages you to be that person. It’s so freeing when you finally find the courage to be yourself, and can open up to new experiences and adventures.
Max’s story helps to balance Alice’s and put it into perspective. Where she has put together an itinerary to challenge herself and her friends, he faces very real challenges doing things they take for granted. Again, though, he’s holidaying with a good friend there to help him – and finds in Alice someone from whom he can’t hide. She reads him well within a short time and notices things he manages to hide from others.
I was a very happy fellow traveller with Alice, Max and friends and fell headlong into this lush will-they? won’t-they? story. It’s tender and tentative, heartwarming and heartbreaking, and vibrant and life-affirming. Isabelle Broom’s put Sri Lanka firmly on my map of places to go (but not before Prague, obviously) even though I feel as if I’ve already been there thanks to this beautiful book. One Thousand Stars to You, Isabelle Broom. You’ve done it again.
One Thousand Stars and You by Isabelle Broom is published by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books UK. It is out as an ebook and in paperback a week today on Thursday, 23rd August. You can pre-order it at Amazon UK or buy it from Hive and support your local independent bookshop instead. Isabelle Broom is the author of five books and the Book Reviews Editor at Heat magazine. You can find out more from her Author Website, or by following her on Instagram or on Twitter.
My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.