The Stars of Heaven is a fictionalized account of the devastating earthquake on All Saints’ Day in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1755. Cecília de Santa Rita e Durante is living in Lisbon with her mother and sister but is away from home when the earthquake hits. She struggles to find her family in the resulting chaos and to rebuild her life as the city is being rebuilt. As the land has been shaken, so has the political climate. She finds herself caught between warring political factions, and the allegiances she chooses could mean life or death. A devout Catholic, she is also fighting challenges to her view of religion and a powerful attraction to an English Protestant deemed quite unsuitable for her.
This is a compelling account of the struggle between the old noble families of Portugal and the new guard led by Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the First Minister, who had the support of the King. The good and bad sides of both factions are shown. Caught in the middle, Cecília must choose between right and wrong, which is usually not very clear. At times naive and at times quite devious, she must decide what is most important to her, or at least what she can live with.
The reader will learn a lot about the Lisbon Earthquake and the fascinating and bloody political struggle of that time. I found this book to be interesting, informative, and exciting, as religion, espionage, and danger combine for a fascinating read. The characters are well developed, especially Cecília and the sometimes sinister and very real Carvalho. I immediately wanted to learn more about him. An enjoyable novel for anyone interested in the Lisbon Earthquake or the politics of that time.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers and Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.