Love by the Morn­ing Star

Lau­ra L. Sullivan
  • Review
By – March 30, 2015

On the same day in 1938, two young women, Han­nah Mor­gen­stern and Anna Mor­gan, arrive at the Lirip­ip fam­i­ly estate, an endur­ing strong­hold of British aris­to­crat­ic sen­si­bil­i­ties. Free-spir­it­ed Han­nah, daugh­ter of a Jew­ish cabaret own­er and a dis­tant rela­tion of the Lirip­ips’, seeks refuge when Kristall­nacht prompts her to flee Ger­many. Self-absorbed Anna, daugh­ter of a lead­ing mem­ber of the Nation­al Fas­cist Front, has been sent to spy on the fam­i­ly in the guise of a ser­vant, in hopes of gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion about the British gov­ern­men­t’s plans as Europe teeters on the verge of war. When Lady Lirip­ip mis­takes Anna for Han­nah, Anna jumps at the chance to play the role of the well-bred aris­to­crat rather than the low­ly kitchen maid, while Han­nah, expect­ing no kind treat­ment from the Lirip­ips based on her mother’s warn­ings, is furi­ous but resigned when she is sent below stairs to work. This case of mis­tak­en iden­ti­ty leads to humor­ous antics that only esca­late as both girls set their sights on the hand­some Lirip­ip heir, who is fre­quent­ly abroad in Ger­many, spy­ing for the British. Meet­ings under cov­er of dark­ness between would-be lovers do noth­ing to illu­mi­nate the confusion. 

The mashup of over-the-top absur­di­ty and World War II his­to­ry makes Love by the Morn­ing Star an orig­i­nal, if unusu­al, nov­el. Though Han­nah has few reli­gious or cul­tur­al attach­ments to Judaism, her con­cern for the well-being of her miss­ing par­ents — and through them, all those per­se­cut­ed by the Nazis — pro­vides a touch of ground­ing pathos to a sto­ry that oth­er­wise strives for the ridiculous. 

Sullivan’s writ­ing is wit­ty, saucy, and well-pitched for farce. An eclec­tic cast of char­ac­ters keeps the sto­ry live­ly. Love by the Morn­ing Star is an enter­tain­ing read with all the humor and high-spir­it­ed raci­ness of a Shake­speare­an com­e­dy paired with the roman­tic intrigue and class com­men­tary of Down­ton Abbey.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 13 and up. 

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