The Stars That Govern Us by J.R. Alcyone – Book Review

The Stars That Govern Us by J.R. Alcyone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book about the challenges two Australian doctors face mid-20th-century as they try to save their young cardiac patients.

Although when I first started reading this book it took some time to become really engaged with the story I did end up being quite drawn in to it – to the extent that I stayed up so late one night reading I slept right through the alarm clock the next morning.

The segment about the first bypass surgery is very exciting to read.

There were a few moments where I felt that the author was being clever just for cleverness’ sake – the Shakespeare quotes, for example. This is something that I’ve seen characters in books do before, but I have not once encountered a person in ‘real life’ who goes about quoting Shakespeare as a matter of course. Perhaps it is in part a question of social class. Also a question of class, perhaps, although also more believable to me within the context of the character’s economic standing – they are doctors – is the main character’s casual mention and use of a sailboat (although this is also, perhaps something more common in coastal Australia than in my land-bound hometown.)

I enjoyed the many details, and the development of setting (and the amused self-consciousness of the author as she highlights the perhaps stereotypical kookaburra in the old gum tree.)

While there were times when I didn’t like, or didn’t particularly believe in, the main character, and there were a few scenes that seemed to be leaning fairly closely into “contrived” or perhaps a bit melodramatic – the tempest at sea reaching crescendo as the main character experiences suicidal ideation comes to mind – over all, I quite enjoyed this story.

I admired especially it’s ability to bring together fictional characters and circumstances together with historical medical progress within a strongly detailed setting. Once it settled into the story, the pacing was compelling and the story ends on a highly satisfactory note.

I received a free copy of this book through

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