“Bright Stars” by Sophie Duffy – Book Review

Cameron Spark‘s life has not turned out as he had once hoped. He is the youngest of four brothers, whose dear Mum died when he was just an adolescent. Once he was the bright one, the studious, nerdy, asthmatic, clumsy one who was the only one in his family to attend university. Now, at age forty-six, he has gone home to live with his father in the three-story granite terrace house he grew up in. The reasons for this are twofold. He is (temporarily?) separated from his wife Amanda, and, he has been suspended from the job he has held for the last quarter decade.  Suspended, and under investigation due to an ‘incident’.

For the last twenty-five years, Cameron has worked for Skeletours Inc., a tour company working historic ‘Old Town‘ Edinburgh. Bringing history alive, he leads ‘ghost tours’, with myriad tourists following his every word and footstep.

Cameron is now seeing a therapist to work through his problems. To discover the ‘why’ behind the incident, and to get his life back on track. The therapist, Jeremy, coaxes Cameron to keep a journal detailing all the events in his life that led up to what happened. It is through this journal that the reader meets teenage Cameron. He has just left his home in Scotland to go to university in Lancaster, England. There is meets three friends that will shape the course of his life. 

Bex (Rebecca Stone), is a vibrant, strong, opinionated girl who is fierce in her beliefs and her loyalties. He loves her and is intimidated by her in equal measure.  Tommo (Ptolemy Dulac), a lanky, skanky rock musician who is alienated from his rich parents. Tommo is the popular guy, the guy who Cameron is least likely to befriend. And finally, Christie, a Canadian student who has the beauty and brains to take her far…

“And that would become the pattern of our relationship: Tommo taking me for granted, me being both flattered and annoyed.” “I felt privileged, I suppose, to be allowed into the Inner Circle of Coolness, nerd-boy that I was.”

The narrative skips from present day back to 1986 as Cameron relates the events leading up to his present circumstances.

“Myrtle believes herself to be a much bigger and less ridiculous-looking dog than she actually is.”

Back in Edinburgh, and the present day, Cameron attempts to deal with his situation aided by his loyal Dad and his father’s mouthy dachshund dog, Myrtle.

“Myrtle sits on my foot. She’s the weight of a small dinosaur rather than a ridiculous stumpy-legged, wee-and-poo machine.”

“Dad has been trying to get me to eat porridge all my life. I hate porridge. It makes me gag. This can be emasculating for a Scot.”

As Cameron awaits the verdict of the investigation his thoughts travel back in time to that fateful year, 1986.

“One act of recklessness, one ill-formed decision, can echo down the years.”

I always marvel when an author chooses to write a story with a protagonist of the opposite sex. It must be quite a challenge. Sophie Duffy has met this challenge with aplomb.

The novel is laced with humour, which I enjoyed tremendously. The characters were fully developed and believable. The settings were described with skill and obvious first-hand knowledge.

I’ll confess, the thing about this novel that I didn’t care for were the use of footnotes. To me they seemed surplus to requirements. Surely someone writing a journal would not use them? Also, they were not at the end of the page, but at the end of the chapter. This meant that you had often forgotten what the footnotes referred to by the time you got to them…

This is a novel about friendship, about a life-altering event, but mostly it is about guilt. Corrosive, devastating guilt. It is literary fiction that strives to make a point and succeeds. A novel that takes the often dour aspects of life and finds the humour hidden within. A novel with an ending that ties up the novel in a satisfactory way.

I very much enjoyed this book and will gladly read other work by this talented author.

I received a complimentary digital copy of “Bright Stars” from Legend Press via NetGalley in consideration of a review which I was only too happy to provide.Sophie Duffy is a Devon girl and currently lives in Dawlish, the seaside town with a railway train that tends to fall into the sea. She has three grown-up children who have partly fled the nest and is often to be found up the lanes dragged by two Tibetan Terriers. She’s had many jobs over the years, including working in Greenwich dole office and pounding the streets as an Avon lady, before becoming a teacher. She took a creative writing evening class which led to an MA which she did at Lancaster University by distance learning from 2002-2004. She got the writing bug and fell in love with the novel. To date she has written four books which have been well received.

Follow Sophie Duffy on Twitter.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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3 Responses to “Bright Stars” by Sophie Duffy – Book Review

  1. Pingback: #BookRecommendations with titles that start with the letter ‘B’ #booklovers #bookbloggers #GreatReads | Fictionophile

  2. carhicks says:

    This sounds interesting, but I would probably get frustrated by the footnotes as well. I did a ghost tour when I was in Edinburgh and went down in the underground just like in your image.


    • Oh Carla… I’m SO jealous. I would love to go on a ‘ghost tour’.
      The author contacted me to say that in the print version of the book the footnotes were on the same page as the reference. I guess it was only the digital version that put them at the end of the chapter. God knows why…

      Liked by 1 person

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