Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Girl Astronomer

Hannah Price spends hours each night searching the heavens in hopes of discovering a comet. In the 1840s women were not expected to become astronomers. Rather thy were expected to marry, have children, and take care of their husbands. This is particularly true in the rigid Quaker community where Hannah grew up.

Although Hannah's father supports her desire to study the heavens, he wants her to settle down, find a husband and have a normal life. Unfortunately, the man Hannah is attracted to, Isaac Martin, is a dark skinned sailor. He wants to learn about celestial navigation, and Hannah agrees to teach him, but the relationship is frowned upon by the community and leads to Hannah's expulsion from the church.

The book is based on the life of Maria Mitchel, an astronomer in the 1800s whose scientific discoveries parallel Hannah's. However, Hannah is her own person. One of the ironies of the story is that Hannah can't see the good in Mary, her beloved twin brother
Edward's fiancée. The Quakers, likewise, can't see the good in Isaac, the dark skinned sailor Hannah falls in love with.

This book touches many themes: the rights of women, the rigidity of the religious community, the act of judging another without understand who they are. These themes are all woven into the story with care. I enjoyed the ideas, but the pace was very slow and the minor characters not well fleshed out.

This is a book for anyone interested in history and women's issues. However, it's not a quick read. If you enjoy a novel that takes it's time building to the climax, you'll enjoy this book, if not this may not be the book for you.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.