From the acclaimed author of The Last First Day, here is a beautiful new period novel: a nineteenth-century story of female empowerment before its time, based on the life of Caroline Herschel, sister of the great composer and astronomer William Herschel and an astronomer in her own right.
This exquisitely imagined novel opens as William rescues Caroline from a life of drudgery in Germany and brings her to England and a world of music making and stargazing. Lina, as Caroline is known, serves as William’s assistant and the captain of his exhilaratingly busy household. William is generous, wise, and charismatic, an obsessive genius whom Lina adores and serves with the fervency of a beloved wife. When William suddenly announces that he will be married, Lina watches her world collapse. With her characteristically elegant prose, Carrie Brown creates from history a compelling story that interweaves familial collaboration and conflict with a haunting exploration of the sublime beauty of astronomy and our small but essential place within a vast and astonishing cosmos. Through Lina’s trials and successes we witness the dawning of an early feminist consciousness—a woman struggling to find her own place among the stars.
Caroline Herschel William Herschel's real-life sister and a housekeeper, research assistant, star pupil, and by her death in 1848 an accomplished astronomer in her own right takes center stage for this historical novel featuring siblings who, between them, designed telescopes, identified double stars, and discovered the planet Uranus as well as several comets. Lina's story begins with an unhappy childhood in Germany, where William and his brothers are trained as musicians while small, sickly Lina does household chores. Passionate about science, William introduces his younger sister to state-of-the-art scientific thinking and teaches her to read the night sky. Eventually he brings her to England to keep house, share his musical career, and assist in his amateur astronomical pursuits. Ingenious, visionary, resolute William designs a new kind of telescope; meticulous, hardworking Lina helps get it built. Together they move from Bath to a modest home in Slough that includes its own observatory, where they devote themselves full-time to astronomy. Then William marries and Lina makes some discoveries of her own. A fictional romance is added to this real-life story of an unusual woman, but it proves less compelling than the events documented by the Herschels themselves. By the end, it is the descriptions of constructing a 40-foot telescope and using it to sweep for undiscovered heavenly bodies that most vividly capture the Age of Wonder.