It is 1845, and Hannah Gardner Price dreams of a world infinitely larger than the small Quaker community where she has lived all 25 years of her life - for, as an amateur astronomer, she secretly hopes to discover a comet and win the King of Denmark's prize for doing so.
But she can only indulge her passion for astronomy as long as the men in her life - her father, brother and family friends - are prepared to support it, and so she treads a fine line between pursuing her dreams and submitting to the wishes and expectations of those around her. That line is crossed when Hannah meets Isaac Martin, a young black whaler from the Azores.Isaac, like Hannah herself, has ambitions beyond his station. Drawn to him despite their differences, Hannah agrees to tutor him in the art of navigation. As their shared passion for the stars develops into something deeper, however, Hannah's standing in the community is called into question, and she has to choose: her dreams or her heart.
Loosely inspired by the work of Maria Mitchell, the first American woman to become a professional astronomer, The Movement of Stars is, at its heart, a glorious - and unusual - love story. With shades of Chocolat and Remarkable Creatures, it will appeal to fans of Tracy Chevalier and Joanne Harris.
|Angi & I|
University and also writes herself. Angi is on Twitter @josephsyard
The Movement of Stars was published by Penguin in May 2013 and is Amy Brill's first novel. Here is Angi's review:
It is 1845, and twenty-five year old Hannah Gardner Price lives with her widowed father in the Quaker community of
Nantucket, a small island off the coast. She is clever, a free-thinking academic who seems out of place amongst the other girls at the meeting house, who dream of nothing more than marriage and babies and are committed to the faith. Her adored twin brother, the only person she really relates to, has left the island on a whaling vessel in defiance of their father’s ambitions for him. But despite her loneliness, Hannah is reasonably content. She has a post at the library and in the evenings she keeps accounts for the family farm and recalibrates chronometers for the boats which dock in the harbour. Massachusetts
Star-watching is her undoubted passion. Night after night, she charts their movements across the sky, always searching for that elusive ‘wanderer’, the comet that – should she be first to record it – will bear her name and perhaps win her the prestigious King of Denmark’s Prize.
When a young black whaler approaches her for navigation lessons, she is forced to reassess her way of life. Like Hannah, Isaac Martin has ideas ‘above his station’. The Quakers were at the forefront of the abolition of slavery, but still the opportunities for black workers are woefully limited. Despite these expectations, Isaac dreams of one day skippering a whaling ship. As they work together, exploring the night sky, Hannah and Isaac challenge one another’s values. Gradually they fall in love.
This is a fascinating story. Hannah is an engaging character – awkward and somewhat lacking in social graces, yet self-aware, reflective and always interesting. Amy Brill’s descriptions of the
Nantucketcommunity are brilliantly evocative, from the distinctiveness of their language and customs to the minutiae of their dress and homes. The Great Fire is rich with detail: the stench of fear and burning buildings.
I'd like to say a huge thanks to Angi for that wonderful review. She has certainly made The Movement of Stars sound like a very tempting read. Angi mentioned that there are quite a few spoilers in the reviews left on Amazon for The Movement of Stars - maybe best avoided before people read the book!I loved this novel. Even in the first week of January, I know it will be one of my top reads of 2014. It might even be the best debut novel I read this year. Which brings me to my one concern. The Movement of Stars is loosely based on the story of Maria Mitchell, a Nantucket Quaker who became renowned as the ‘lady astronomer’. Clearly the author has done her research, both into the stargazing and cultural aspects of her novel. Over a decade’s worth of research, in fact. I don’t want to wait another decade for her second novel, but I want it to be as good. Is that possible?
Amy Brill is a writer and producer who has worked for PBS and MTV and has been awarded fellowships by the Edward F Albee Foundation, the Millav Colony, and the American Antiquarian Society, among others. This is her first novel. She lives in Brooklyn.
For more information about the author and her work, visit her website www.amybrill.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @amy_brill