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The Stargazer's Sister

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From the acclaimed author of The Last First Day: 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 astronomer William Herschel and an astronomer in her own right.

This exquisitely imagined novel opens as the great astronomer and composer William Herschel rescues his sister 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 as her world collapses.

With her characteristically elegant prose, Brown creates from history a compelling story of familial collaboration and conflict, the sublime beauty of astronomy, and the small but essential place we have within a vast and astonishing cosmos. Through Lina’s trials and successes, we witness the dawning of an early feminist consciousness, of a woman struggling to find her own place among the stars.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published January 19, 2016

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About the author

Carrie Brown

21 books65 followers
Carrie Brown is the author of five novels – her most recent novel is The Rope Walk (Pantheon, 2007) – and a collection of short stories, The House on Belle Isle. Her other novels include Rose’s Garden, Lamb in Love, The Hatbox Baby and Confinement.

She has won many awards for her work, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and The Great Lakes Book Award. She has also twice won the Library of Virginia’s Fiction Award, and her novel The Rope Walk was chosen as the All Iowa Reads Selection by the Iowa Public Library. Her novels have appeared on the Best Books of the Year lists from The Christian Science Monitor and The Chicago Tribune.

A frequent book reviewer for newspapers including The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, her short fiction has also appeared in journals including One Story, The Oxford American, The Georgia Review, Glimmer Train, and Blackbird. She teaches Creative Writing at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. You can visit her summer reading blog http://bookclub.blog.sbc.edu/.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 237 reviews
Profile Image for Annette.
734 reviews315 followers
October 25, 2021
The Stargazer’s Sister is based on the life of Caroline Herschel, sister of the great composer and astronomer William Herschel and an astronomer in her own right.

Caroline, known as Lina, at twenty-two joins her brother in England. First, as they journey from Hanover to England, the story goes back in time and reveals their bond.

Hanover, 1755. When William is seventeen, Lina is five. Lina’s three brothers are clever, all of them are scholars and musicians, but William is the most advanced. He teaches Lina things, about atoms, telescope, rotation of the earth, musical scales… He is patient with his little sister, which is very endearing. On the other hand, Jacob, the oldest brother, is their mother’s favorite and is hateful and mean toward Lina.

When William holds a position as concertmaster and organist in Bath and begging letters come from Lina to save her from their cruel mother, William insists he can train Lina to be a singer. Thus, he brings her to England.

The characters are interestingly developed and prose is beautiful, however, the pace is very slow and because of that I struggled to stay engaged with this story.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,168 reviews541 followers
January 23, 2016
Caroline "Lina" Herschel is the twelve years younger sister of the 18th Century astronomer William Herschel. This is her story. WHEW!

For the entire first half of the book I would have given it a 4 star with no equivocations. The second half is barely a 3.5. But I had to round it up because Lina is grabbed to her very depths. And this is a difficult, difficult task for a woman who did not follow any prescribed "normal" for her period and placement. Beyond that outlier existence, she is further buried to history by the over-shadowing of the great Sun of her brother, William. She's lost to/in his "light".

This book is she. Not the stunner in the middle of the picture/photo. No, not Lina. She is the Martha (Mary/Martha story from the Bible) that never appears in the picture much at all until she is past middle age. And then barely on the periphery.

And that is what hinders the length here. So many years, and most spent in carrying water, lighting fires, cooking for teams of workers, physical manipulations for mechanics being hand produced for her brother- and never the least of it- also little sleep. It rather makes a convent life (praying 9 times a day) or working industry during this same period look like a stint in the country club.

No, books written upon the huge amount of scut work and endless drudgery coupled with occasional high physical danger- usually only make good visual reality T.V. and not novels. So here, this story, is a difficult one to tell. Family dynamics after her move to England become far less central to the core tale, IMHO, and the "work" becomes far more. And never let us forget that this was in an age where it was not unusual for a family of 3 to have at least 4 to 6 servants if there were outside yards or a stable/ carriage house to maintain. She has one boy to help. Stanley is his name- he is 12 at the set up.

At the point of the book when she was in her mid-40's, I just wanted to shake her. And scream "Lina, get the first carriage to Bath". LOL!

Sad story. But totally of a piece to most women's lives of no wealth or monetary employment in that period in Europe. Not just Germany, England or the other places she eventually lived.

After I have finished, I wonder that she even snagged those medals at the very end of her life. Or the red velvet chair. She needed that chair to sit down in at least 50 or 60 years before she got it.

Here's to all those pluggers who stick with it during their lives. On one task, one intellectual direction, one goal, one person. Regardless of all. I'm usually not one of them but my hat's off to those who "stick". Lina, I'm not so sure.

If you like greatly detailed and far less action- deep emotional nuance- and do not mind sadness and dysfunction, then this could be a good read for you. I'm glad I learned about her accomplishments. She sacrificed for them.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews95.7k followers
January 20, 2016
A wonderful historical novel based on the life of Caroline Herschel, sister of the great composer and astronomer William Herschel, and an unacknowledged genius in her own right. When William brings Caroline to England to live with him and assist in his composing and astronomy work, she is thrilled. But then William's upcoming nuptials threaten to steal her happy life away. The Stargazer's Sister is a vividly imagined tale of female empowerment in a time of oppression and of an unknown talent hidden from the world.

Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books: http://bookriot.com/category/all-the-...
Profile Image for Orsolya.
600 reviews287 followers
July 31, 2016
William Herschel, the famous astronomer and composer, is best known for his discovery of the planet Uranus and for his telescope modernizations. This exemplary man had an equally extraordinary sister Caroline (whom he worked with side-by-side). Caroline was the first paid woman in the astronomy field, received awards/medals, and was a member of the Royal Astronomical Society. Not to mention she discovered several comets! Quite impressive, right? Carried Brown brings this sibling relationship and professional drive to life in, “The Stargazer’s Sister”.

“The Stargazer’s Sister” is not your traditional plot-heavy novel. Instead of focusing merely on the lives and accomplishments of William and Caroline; Brown pens a character-driven story highlighting Caroline’s thoughts and views of the world beginning at age 5. The pages are rife with philosophical meanderings, stream of consciousness, and feminist thoughts but in perfect ratio to a story explaining the lives of the Herschels. Basically, the novel is standout and a special shining star (no pun intended).

Brown’s capacity at bringing characters alive is beyond measure. From the very first page, the reader feels deeply for Caroline and ‘one’ with her; sharing her experiences. Consequentially, you will want to crawl into the pages and hug her. “The Stargazer’s Sister” is so powerful that it requires breaks in reading because it is so emotionally evocative. Yet, Brown’s writing is effortless and simple making “The Stargazer’s Sister” easy-to-read.

Equally moving is Brown’s prose which is descriptive and vivid but, again, not forceful or over-the-top. “The Stargazer’s Sister” is difficult to describe because it has an element of magic and perfection that is not easy to pinpoint. This extends to the way Brown presents the conflict of development and feelings that Caroline feels for William. The confusion, highs, and lows are relatable and the reader feels the stark contrasts but without it being over-analyzed or too psychological making the experience and text beautiful.

The subtle growth of Caroline’s characterization is compelling as it moves gracefully on the pages and at a pace reflective of real life. Brown doesn’t exaggerate nor does she slow down this progression which makes Caroline very ‘real’ and evocative. This adds understanding to the story and also the urge to continue reading in order to realize the outcome of the Caroline’s story.

Aside from the lovely fictional-end; Brown also provides scientific insight and a look at the work produced by William and Caroline. This isn’t data-heavy and won’t bog down the reader with unfamiliar jargon but will entice with curious mentioning of astronomical findings. This can encourage some readers to further research the nonfiction-end of the Herschels and their field of work.

The climax of “The Stargazer’s Sister” plays well into the story but is sadly followed by concluding chapters which shine less brilliantly with fewer nuances than the rest of the novel. Brown’s writing is a bit weaker and feels almost “chick lit” in essence at this portion of the story.

The ending is sharp enough; still with less of an emotional impact than readers would hope for but not bad. Brown follows the story with an ‘Afterword’ explaining the historical deviations in the plot and offering sources for further reading.

“The Stargazer’s Sister” is a lovely novel with delicate strands which pull at the reader and results in in-depth reading. Although not perfect; it is still intricately-written and filled with mesmerizing prose, much recommended for historical fiction readers interested in the bond and love between humans.
Profile Image for Alejandra.
115 reviews12 followers
July 5, 2022
I feel almost mad at this book. Wonderful writing, Tropes I love, good characters, and so many wasted opportunities to make this story better (in my opinion)
Profile Image for R K.
487 reviews65 followers
June 3, 2017
Both William and Caroline Herschal were astronomers who have vastly contributed to the field. From William's discovery of Uranus to Caroline's discovery of various comets.

Both were highly intelligent scientist who dedicated their lives to science. This book.............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
First thing that irritated me, lack of editing

The book description states that the book takes place during the 19th century. HOWEVER, the entire book takes place during the 1700's. Even a comment from one of the reviewers mentioned how the book takes place during the 1700's.

Second. The writing.

I didn't like it. It was weird. It felt too modern style at times only to become very old fashioned. At times it felt too vague too non-committal. It was hard to picture anything. I do struggle with picturing what authors try to describe but this was just awful. I gave up trying and just created my own Dr. Seuss version. There was nothing really good about the writing. I noticed many grammatical mistakes and was just irked by how stilted the words seemed. It didn't flow into a story. I couldn't be absorbed by it at all. Plus Brown kept jumping tenses!

Third, Repetition

Simply put, I felt that things were just repeated in different way in every chapter. Caroline's dismay about how she is marked. Her obsessive adoration of her brother. Her exasperation with him. Her worry that she would be replaced. All repeated over and over and over again.

Fourth, Caroline's treatment of a certain character.
Now without going too much into spoilers, Caroline makes assumptions based on ABSOLUTELY nothing on a certain character. When she opens up to her brother on this. He doesn't really do anything. She goes on for a very long time with this assumption only to have it shattered by the person them self. And then, all of a sudden, she feels affection for this person??????
It was not needed and played no part to the plot. I also felt it was a bit insulting.

Fifth, plot.
What plot? Honestly, most of the book has absolutely no plot at all. It seemed like there were budding mini plots that went no where at all. The book description talked about how Caroline acts more like a doting wife to her brother (which I think is tainting was is honest heartfelt caring for one's siblings) and how her brother's marriage might put an end to all that. however, that didn't occur until majority of the book was finished. I honestly was asking myself if I read the description incorrectly.

Sixth, The fact that the book didn't really focus on astronomy.

Sure Brown included the various discoveries, and the overall construction of the telescope, and the excitement of SCIENCE her brother had. But that's it. It was just those 3 things repeated over and over again. Also she resorted to telling the reader rather then showing the reader. There was a crucial moment where Caroline makes her own first discovery and this is generically how the scene was written: "Caroline notice a movement in the sky. She made a quick note about the placement and where it was heading. She knew she needed a witness to back her up."

That's all that's said.
It made it very confusing as the reader to understand what exactly was being discovered. Why it was important and why it made the siblings famous.

Seventh, the depth of character relationships.

Other then Caroline's obsession with her brother there was no other character who got a bit of light shined on them. We never learn anything about any of the other characters other then what Caroline sees and thinks about said character. It's not very immersive and made me just not care about any of them.

Eighth, Caroline's "tragic" past.
I read on Wikipedia about her past and if she really was treated like shit by her mom then Brown failed at portraying that to the reader. I honestly thought she was being a brat and that there were others in more depraved situations.

Finally, I want to address the issue of Caroline's relationship with her brother.
In my opinion and based on what I researched. It seemed that Caroline really cared for her brother. She wanted to help him. Be of use to him but she also wanted to be on her own. The two personalities clashed but for the most part, her devotion to her brother won. I really don't think that the true Herschel siblings were were any different from others. It was a time where familial relations were treated differently. For ex, it wasn't uncommon for a sibling to kiss the hand or cheek of another. It is now but not then. I think that Caroline saw a friend who truly believed in her and viewed her in equal standing with her brother and she knew that there would be no other man who would do the same because of their time periods. She knew that. She knew how much she treasured being valued and this in tail caused her to take on everything in the hopes that her brother realizes just how valuable she is both to him and the field of astronomy. The book however, seems to try to portray this as Caroline being in love or having fierce attachment to her brother. That's not true and like I said before, insulting.

Overall, I learned more from Wikipedia articles.
Profile Image for Jennybeast.
3,385 reviews12 followers
November 20, 2015
I'm not going to lie, here, this is a slow moving book. There are moments of shattering betrayal and cruelty, but there are far more moments of grueling work, with the brother in the grip of an obsession with the stars and the sister starved for intellectual flight. Yet I found both Lina and the book combine an overarching sweetness and a gritty determination not to be ignored that made it impossible to stop reading. I wanted to know more about her world, her quest, her future. Mesmerizing and lyrical, with the kinds of well written portraiture of place that sets a historical story firmly in the imagination.

Advanced Reader's Copy provided by Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Katie/Doing Dewey.
1,056 reviews201 followers
January 20, 2016
Summary: This was fantastic historical fiction, with a fascinating time period and main character, both brought vividly to life.

Although you may recognize the name of William Herschel (astronomer, first to observe Uranus, designer of a new telescope), you may not know how involved his sister, Caroline, was in his work. Rescued from a life of drudgery with her uncaring mother, Lina was deeply grateful to come live with her brother. She embraced the knowledge he was able to share, becoming not only a capable assistant, but an impressive astronomer in her own right. Her abilities and independence gave her great joy, but, given her brother's obsession with his work, they sometimes came at a high cost to her health and happiness as well.

This is a book I looked at, but did not add to my list of Futuristic Friday books I was looking forward to. I'll be the first to say that was a mistake and I'm so glad I picked it up anyway! The author, Carrie Brown, does an incredible job of bringing to life the time period in which Lina lived. The little details she shared about the daily lives and hardships of the late 1700s gave me a new perspective that I loved. She also made me feel for Lina - her love for her brother and for astronomy; her fear of being trapped with her mother or discarded by her brother when he married; and the awe, curiosity, and determination that drove her.

I really don't know how to explain how much I loved this book. Lina was such an incredible, intelligent, impressive woman. It was amazing reading about how she defied the constraints of her time to achieve so much. The best part of this for me is that it's grounded in truth. The author explains at the end that much of her writing is based on journal entries and letters written by Lina and her brother. She is also very clear about the parts of the novel that are tweaks or addendums to what the historical record shows. For anyone who enjoys learning about the role women played in history or historical fiction in general, I highly recommend picking this up.

Have you read any historical fiction or nonfiction about women that you'd recommend?
This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey
Profile Image for Candice.
1,389 reviews
February 1, 2016
Once again I became lost in the beautiful descriptive language that is present in all of Carrie Brown's books. Her descriptions of nature - the landscape, the heavens - are absolutely lovely. In this book of historical fiction she gives Caroline Herschel, sister of the stargazer William, the recognition she deserves. William saw something in his 12 years younger sister that compelled him to spend time with her, to teach her, to care about her. Caroline and William's mother, exhausted by very frequent pregnancies and the resulting children, could not be the caring parent she should have been. William rescued the bright Caroline, taking her to England to keep house for him and to help him with his study of the heavens. The descriptions of life as an astronomer in the 1700s were eye-opening. Today's astronomers have the best equipment at their disposal. William Herschel had to be both astronomer and engineer as he had to build much of his own equipment. This was a fascinating look at life in the 1700s as well as an informative portrait of two important people in the world of astronomy.
Profile Image for John.
Author 270 books158 followers
February 19, 2018
This is a novel that I found deeply satisfying while at the same time profoundly annoying on numerous levels. While reading it I was initially alienated by its pretentiousness (having the narrative in the present tense and its past in the pluperfect isn't clever or arty, just self-indulgent) and came very close to throwing it at the wall before I reached page 50. However, my fascination with Caroline and William Herschel as science-historical figures kept me going, and I'm overall glad that it did.

The bones of the story are what we know from history. The Hanoverian genius William Herschel came to England as a young man and embarked upon two successful careers there, as a composer and as an astronomer. (He was no mean composer, by the way. If interested, you should be able to find some of his works on YouTube.) After a while he brought over to England his younger (by 12 years) sister Caroline, who became not just his housekeeper and Admin Officer but also his devoted companion at the telescope. In due course Caroline became an astronomer of distinction in her own right, discovering a passel of comets, making radical and important improvements to John Flamsteed's star catalogue, and more. While she'll always be overshadowed by her elder brother, who discovered the planet Uranus (he thought initially it was a comet, and then wanted to call it Georgium Sidus), there's no doubt that, had she been born in a different age when women weren't expected to be subservient, she'd be regarded as at least his equal and might well have eclipsed him.

That's the history.

In The Stargazer's Sister Carrie Brown sets out to tell the human story -- to turn the historical figure of "Lina" Herschel into someone we can love. In this she very much succeeds. After a while I became inured to the godawful jumble of tenses noted above and found myself totally immersed in Caroline and her world -- whenever I put the book down I had to make a conscious effort to snap myself out of its ambience. I was a fan of Caroline Herschel before; now I'm even more so. (If anyone ever makes the movie, could it possibly star Sarah Polley?)

And yet . . .

Brown admits at the end that she made a few adjustments to the historical record for the purposes of, y'know, Art.

On balance, I wish she hadn't. Some of her artifices are fine -- William was present in Hanover with the family to watch an eclipse when in reality he wasn't, in England the Herschels had a lifelong servant and friend called Stanley whom Brown invented out of whole cloth -- but others are actually pretty naff. Examples:

Later in the novel William marries a widow, Mary Pitt, and Caroline, who has devoted much of her life to her adored big bro, has a few years of miffedness about this. She and Mary make up, though, and, as William nears death, Caroline rues that the couple never had children: "How William would have loved to have had a son, sob, bwah." (That may not be an exact quote but it encapsulates the faux-pathos.) In reality, the couple had a son, John, who went on to become a major astronomer in his own right. More than that, because he based so much of his own work on Caroline's, and told her that this was the case, he was an important influence on her later life -- he made it clear she was not the useless maiden great-aunt her brother Dietrich told her she was after she moved, following William's death, back from England to Hanover.

Except, in the novel, that's not what happened. Instead of moving from England to Hanover after William's death, she moved for a decade or so to Lisbon, where she was taken in by and became the lover of fabulously wealthy amateur astronomer Dr Silva. Silva is another of the author's invented characters, and the relationship never happened -- any more than did that between Caroline and the unfortunately syphilitic benefactor of the Herschels and putative husband, the nonexistent Sir Henry Spencer.

I have absolutely no objection to historical/biographical novelists inventing stuff in order to fill in the gaps, so to speak. Had Brown correctly depicted Caroline moving straight from England to Hanover and there having the love of her life with some or other Dr Silva, I'd have thought this was entirely within any novelist's right -- just as I do Brown's invention of Stanley as the epitome of all manner of faithful servants the Herschels must have had. Yet to invent a whole, decade-long episode of the subject's life that the historical record quite clearly indicates never occurred? That, I think, goes too far.

Another major problem I had with the novel was its dearth (not total lack) of "scienciness": oh, ya, discovered a new planet, ya, right (Brown never even discusses the debate over the planet's name). There are cosmological ideas thrown in that seem centuries before their time, as if William were precognitive: nebulae as external galaxies, the possibility of black holes. If William indeed had these insights, I really wanted to hear more about them!

(And shall. Michael D. Lemonick's The Georgian Star has just moved closer to the top of my pile.)

Overall, then, if you want to approach this book as an often extremely moving novel about love and the places it can lead to, you're likely to be rewarded. If you're seeking a biographical novel that remotely represents reality, then you're likely to be as annoyed as I often was.
Profile Image for Kate.
869 reviews126 followers
April 6, 2016
3.5 astronomic stars

I am not sure how to review this without letting my modern 21st century opinions cloud the life of the awe-inspiring Caroline 'Lina' Herschel. The story of her life and achievements were fascinating, and I only wished for more. The structure and pacing detracted from my pleasure of the read, often causing me to read without knowing exactly where in Lina's life I was. Sympathy and regard for Lina's determination and achievements were continuously evoked, yet I wanted to learn more of her own work and discoveries. William and his invention/discoveries dominate throughout, regardless of Lina's devotion to her brother and involvement in his work. But I was restless for more Lina, more of her passions and work rather than the brief glancing they had received.
Profile Image for Marialyce (absltmom, yaya).
1,909 reviews727 followers
January 6, 2017
It was so amazing that this woman gave up her life to further her brother's desire to know the heavens. Greater love hath no man or in this case woman....
Profile Image for ♏ Gina Baratono☽.
723 reviews109 followers
February 16, 2018
What an amazing book! Although it is historical fiction, it is based on the life of Caroline Herschel, an astronomer.

Caroline is a sister to the noted astronomer William Herschel. She lives in Germany doing what is expected of women at that time despite her high intelligence and deep desire to learn.

At the beginning of the novel, Charoline is saved from a contuining life of housework when her brother takes her with him to England.

William is also a great musician as well as an astronomer, and his beloved Caroline becomes his assistant in all of his great works. Although they are brother and sister, this book becomes filled with their evident love for each other, their respect for each other, and Lina's (as her brother calls her) becomes a very important person at William's house, where things are a big rambunctious to say the least. She is beyond happy and becomes an astronomer herself, and they work together quite well. Although William is well known today for his discoveries, his sister Caroline held a large part in his success. She is quite content with life as it is.

And then....William says he will be marrying soon. This will have an extremely negative effect on Caroline as she watches her world slowly move from everything she could ever dream of to complete and utter chaos.

I read some reviews where readers were upset that the book doesn't go into a lot of detail about William's true major discoveries, but I did not feel that absence at all. The book is called "The Stargazer's Sister" and there are plenty of books out there about William Herschel. I found myself enthralled with the story of his sister, yet another woman who was an integral part of making history but whose name is hardly known.
Profile Image for Ayeh.
84 reviews12 followers
June 22, 2022
این کتاب پر از پتانسیل بود، داستان زیبا، قلم خیلی خاص نویسنده. ولی حس می‌کنم اون طور که باید ازش استفاده نشده بود‌. می‌تونست خیلی بهتر درش بیاره. :((

کتاب بر اساس یک داستان واقعی روایت شده، زندگی ویلیام و کارولین(لینا) هرشلِ ستاره‌شناس از کودکی تا مرگ. پر از جملات قشنگ بود، پر از احساسات عمیق. عشق این خواهر و برادر به همدیگه و به علم و ستاره‌ها.
درمورد اینکه چجوری توی مراحل مختلف زندگی به‌هم کمک کردن تا توی اون دوره‌ی سخت زمانی نجات پیدا کنن.

با اینکه رابطه‌ی خواهر- برادری لینا و ویلیام خیلی سوئیت بود، ولی یه‌جاهایی برام لوس می‌شد.
می‌تونست روی شخصیت ویلیام بیشتر کار کنه. اگه بیشتر از پتانسیلش استفاده می‌کرد شاید واقعا برام موندگار و تاثیرگذار می‌شد، لینا هم همین‌طور.
درکل روند داستانی آخرای کتاب بهتر بود. کلا آخرای کتاب رو بیشتر دوست داشتم، از اون یکنواختی دراومده بود. ولی نهایت کتابی بود که واقعا ناراحت شدم، ناراحت از اینکه می‌تونست یه شاهکار باشه ولی نشد.
دوست عزیز وقتی قلم قشنگ و ایده‌ی عالی داری بهتر روش کار می‌کردی دیگه. عه. *حرص می‌خورد*

از متن کتاب:

- ما به ابزار بهتری نیاز داریم، اما مهم‌تر از اون، به تخیل بزرگ‌تری نیاز داریم‌.

- بالای سرشان، ستارگان در صحنه‌ای باشکوه می‌درخشند؛ خیره‌کننده و اسرارآمی��. احساس می‌کند در دوردست‌های خاموش، در سکوت، زبانی جریان دارد؛ موسیقی درحال اجراست. او و ویلیام امکانات یا توانایی لازم را برای شنیدنش ندارند، اما می‌داند که برادرش، مطمئن از وجود آن به سمتش کشیده می‌شود.
960 reviews
January 22, 2018
5 plus stars. I completely and totally loved this book. Historical fiction, gorgeous language, strong emotion. I was sorry when it was over.
Profile Image for Laurie.
942 reviews37 followers
March 9, 2016
Caroline Herschel did not have an easy life. She caught typhus as a child and it both stunted her growth and left her with facial scars. She knew she’d never marry, and thought she had no future but to continue as a household slave to her exhausted, constantly pregnant, and deliberately cruel mother. Thankfully for her, her elder brother William responded to her letter which just said “Save me” and brought her to his home in England to keep house for him, train as a singer, and aid him in his astronomical endeavors. Lina became indispensable- or so she thought. After years of serving William in all aspects of his life - being both housemaid who cleaned the chamber pots and scientific assistant who devoted every hour to his comfort- he suddenly married a rich, young, widow and Lina was unceremoniously removed from their shared house. But her accomplishments- she discovered several comets and was the first woman to be paid by the Crown for doing science-secured her place in history, despite being overshadowed by her brother.

Brown writes in the third person but always from Lina’s point of view. She presents us with a woman who works until she is bone tired but continues anyway because the work simply must be done- as well as because she is fascinated with astronomy. She also loves her brother, almost to an unnatural degree. She takes his marriage as a great betrayal.

The writing is lovely in most places; the descriptions of dwelling, life, and work are detailed and wonderful. Life was hard back then, and Brown makes us feel every over-worked muscle. But Lina’s life had beauty as well as endless toil; the night sky in all its brilliance was hers to explore. I really enjoyed the book, except for a couple of places where Brown deviates too far from the historical record. A novelist must invent events that fit into the historical record- and Lina left extensive journals. But the author invents a big event that never happened, and excludes someone who existed from the story; not by merely ignoring the person but by explicitly stating that no such person lived. I knew enough about the Herschels that this irritated me. Still, it’s a very good read.
Profile Image for Karen.
956 reviews20 followers
December 16, 2016
Maybe you have heard of William Herschel, renowned German composer and astronomer. But it is unlikely you know much about Caroline Herschel, his younger sister. She is the woman behind the man. She walked beside his greatness with her own brilliance that catapulted his dreams and ideas to discover, build and learn things that most deemed outrageous, if not completely impossible in the mid 1700’s. William, whose mind worked at a frantic pace he could not control taught Lina from a very young age about the stars, the sky and the universe. It was unheard of for girls to study at this time so Lina devoured this knowledge William patiently fed to her at every opportunity. As an unattractive young girl in a small German village with no family financial means, it was understood that Lina would lead a life of servitude. Her unloving, bitter mother was both cruel and deceptive with her manipulations. But lucky for Lina that William kept his promise and came back for her and brought her to England to be his trusty assistant. Their life captured in this magnificent historical novel is filled with the discovery of love as well as stars. With absolutely no prior interest in astronomy I surprised even myself as I devoured every word of this unputdownable work of fiction. Through much research and the good fortune of journals and letters that have been preserved, author Carrie Brown was able to treat us with the perfect combination of accuracy and fiction that brought these amazing characters to life. Highly recommend my reader friends! www.readingandeating.com
818 reviews2 followers
January 28, 2018
4.5 historically fascinating; the writing fabulous. Lina made me think about the novel Miss Jane, Brad Watson’s historical novel. Strong, positive, inspiring women.
I was disappointed, reading the author’s acknowledgements, that some of characters I loved were fictional and not a part of Lina’s real life.
130 reviews
November 10, 2018
The Stargazer’s Sister is one of those rare treats we readers long to find.

It is beautifully written, with scene descriptions that allow the reader to feel as if they have visited the locations themselves. The characters are rich and believable, with all of the different facets we humans possess. A significant portion of the book is dedicated to the characters passion for astronomy, which, rather than becoming a scientific treatise, becomes a character unto itself.

The Stargazer’s Sister is rich, fulfilling and a work that is savored long after the last sentence.
Profile Image for Laurie.
30 reviews
June 8, 2022
This book is interesting and well written; I hadn't even heard of Caroline Herschel before. Lina is a superbly depicted protagonist and a marvel of her time. It's quite a feat to live till 97 years old in our time, let alone nearly two centuries prior. I agree with other reviews that the action was a bit slow, but still I liked it and thought it was a great read.
Profile Image for Alberto Tebaldi.
374 reviews4 followers
April 28, 2020
A very beautifully written historic novel, with a deep focus on the humanity of he characters.
Profile Image for Lis Carey.
2,135 reviews92 followers
April 18, 2016
This is a great fictional biography of the life of Caroline Herschel, younger sister of astronomer William Hersschel. For many years she was the unfavored younger daughter of the Herschel family, or more specifically unfavored by her her mother, or by her oldest brother, Jacob.

Her father Isaac and her second-oldest sibling, William, though, were very fond of her, and she acquired a pretty fair education along the way. When William was settled and established in England, having gone there originally in the military service of the Elector of Hanover, a.k.a. the King of England, eventually he needed help running his household, and she become desperate enough to ask him to save her from life with their mother.

And thus we embark on the fascinating story of the brilliant astronomer and his sister, who kept him fed, reminded him to sleep, and assisted him in his work. And who became a very good astronomer in her own right.

Even today, astronomy, the observation of the night sky and the tracking and recording of what can be seen in it, is still a field where educated, dedicated amateurs can and do make significant discoveries. In the lave 1700s and early 1800s, there was still far more scope for "amateurs" such as William Herschel was at the beginning of his career. What Herschel had over other astronomers, amateur and professional, was insight into the design of better telescopes, and the energy and dedication to follow throw and build them.

He also had his sister, Caroline.

Caroline helped make it possible for him to spend so much of his time working at his telescopes. She actively helped with the work of getting his greatest telescope, the forty-foot telescope he built at Observatory House in Slough, built. More importantly, she recorded his work, kept it organized, and was always available to track down whatever piece of information he needed.

And she made her own observations on the twenty-foot telescope, and recorded those observations, and discovered numerous comets. Over many years and a long life, she gained widespread recognition both for her contributions to William's work, and her own work.

But those are just the outward facts of her unexpected professional life. She was also a woman of fairly modest background and real but limited education, who became an accomplished woman of science in the late 18th and early 19th century, while her personal life was emotionally trying, often precarious, dependent on her brother for most of her adult life, and her security was very nearly snatched away from her grasp when William, in his fifties, finally married the wealthy widow, Mary Pitt.

Brown gives us a picture of a young girl who grows to be a strong, intelligent, determined adult, with real accomplishments of her own at a time when that was neither expected nor supported, and eventually found her own piece of personal happiness, as well. It's engrossing, challenging, and at last emotionally satisfying.

The basic outlines of Caroline's life and professional accomplishments are accurate. Much of the personal detail and relationships are of course necessarily the result of speculation and invention.

Highly recommended.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audible in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Shan.
424 reviews19 followers
March 2, 2016
What a lovely book this is! I knew the outlines of the Herschels' story from The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science and found the story of this brother-and-sister stargazing duo one of the most compelling in the book (which is brimming with compelling stories of really interesting people).

This novel, while very much a work of fiction, does not disappoint, and while the author made some interesting choices, her Caroline and William feel very true (due in part, surely, to the abundance of source material they left behind). Brown deftly balances science and emotion, love and resentment, and Caroline is easy to love and to relate to. I especially loved that Caroline's love and admiration for her brilliant and difficult brother never left her blind to his myriad faults -- she is happy with her life and her work, but she also knows that she deserves better than the treatment she often receives from her head-in-the-Milky-Way sibling.

A historical note at the end of the book details some elements that were invented or omitted from the historical truth of the Herschels' lives, and I had mixed feelings about this. For example, I loved the Portuguese doctor and stargazer who wins Lina's heart well into her middle age and the servant boy who grows up to be Lina's greatest friend and supporter (both completely invented!), but I'm a little bemused by Brown's choice to eliminate the son of William's late-in-life marriage, choosing to leave William and Mary Herschel childless. I don't think that a son for William and a nephew for Caroline would have diminished what Brown was trying to do with her characters -- quite the contrary. And since Sir John Herschel grew up to be an astronomer and scientist in his own right, his removal from his aunt's and father's story is even more baffling -- causing the story almost to veer into the realm of alternate history. (Which, let's face it, I love, but I prefer to have it identified as such.)

In the end, it's up to the author of historical fiction to make her own choices, and I'm sure Brown had her reasons. In the hands of a lesser writer, this might have been a dealbreaker, but a few invented and deleted astronomers ultimately couldn't cloud my enjoyment of this fine book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Leeanna.
538 reviews92 followers
August 10, 2016
This review originally appeared on my blog, Leeanna.me.


Before coming across THE STARGAZER’S SISTER, I had never heard of Caroline Herschel. Now that I know more about her, I’m sad she’s been lost to history, likely because she was overshadowed by her more famous brother, and also because she was a woman.

THE STARGAZER’S SISTER is not a feel good book. But I think it is realistic of a woman’s life in the late 1700s. Lina’s early life is cruel, including an abusive mother and typhus. Typhus condemns her to an even crueller future, as it marks her face and body, leaving her unsuitable for marriage. When brother William rescues her, bringing her to England to assist his research, life is still difficult. But for the first time ever, Lina is happy -- even if all of her genius does go towards supporting William and his eventual discoveries.

I did enjoy reading about Lina, especially her later life, when she had more independence and made her own astronomical observations. But I did have trouble understanding Lina’s intense devotion to William. I also wasn’t a fan of the literary style of THE STARGAZER’S SISTER, but that’s because I’m not a fan of literary books. If you’re expecting straight-up historical fiction, you might want to check out a sample of the book.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

See more of my reviews:
January 23, 2016
Much of Caroline Herschel’s life is spent alone with her angry, unhappy mother, working as little better than a slave for a woman who has never shown her any interest or kindness. As a young girl she contracted typhus but it is the 1700s and there is nothing to be done but hope she survives. When she does it is to even greater misery from her mother who seems to enjoy telling her that her pockmarked face and stunted height mean she will never attract a husband. Caroline’s only source of joy is her older brother, William, who treats her with respect and kindness, teaching her to read and, even more importantly, to think. William is the family’s great hope—a musician, scientist, and astronomer with an infinite capacity to learn. He leaves their family in Germany when he is nineteen and goes to England where his wide and varied career as a musician brings him into contact with men of science and soon astronomy is his only focus. It is when he receives a letter from the twenty-two-year-old Lina that says only “Save me” that he returns from England and she becomes The Stargazer’s Sister, in Carrie Brown’s deeply profound historical novel.

The rest of this review can be read at The Gilmore Guide to Books: http://wp.me/p2B7gG-1ve
Profile Image for Kaethe.
135 reviews2 followers
February 22, 2016
Gorgeously written, enthralling tale: I was disappointed that it wasn't closer to the "truth," not because I think historical fiction needs to stick to the facts (because where is the fun in that??), but because I wanted it all to be true. I liked the heroine so very much and wanted her to have a life that included both professional satisfaction and personal joy, to have the life that Carrie Brown imagined for her. Like so many women (and men) of her era, this was not the case, but Professor Brown's storytelling is so enchanting, so real, that until I read the afterword, I believed in a "happily ever after" for Caroline Herschel. This is the third book I've read by Professor Brown, whose works I discovered first because she teaches at my daughter's alma mater (and sometimes at mine -- thanks for sharing the wealth, Professor Brown!). I'm grateful that my daughter brought Professor Brown's fiction to my attention because with each novel, I find myself deeply engrossed and vividly reminded of what a joy reading for pleasure can be.
Profile Image for Karen Osborn.
Author 4 books13 followers
December 26, 2015
Carrie Brown is a master of creating characters and taking you immediately inside their worlds. In this case the world is historical, and it’s filled with the passions of astronomy and visions of the sky as seen through newly invented telescopes. You can feel the excitement of looking at the night sky and identifying the cosmos. The novel shows Lina Herschel’s remarkable life, including the hardships that came with living in a time period when women were not thought to have such intelligence and had to express their ideas and passions through men. Lina is her brother William’s assistant in his astronomical discoveries, which makes her dependent on his good will and care. The novel shows Lina’s defeats, as well as moments of ecstasy, while sighting comets and discovering new planets, with equal depth and authenticity. This is a moving story, full of lyrical descriptions of the night sky—a love song to the life led by this extraordinary woman.
Profile Image for Janette Mcmahon.
886 reviews9 followers
March 24, 2016
I was very interested in the subject of this novel and Brown did well with her research, though remember this is historical fiction and she, of course, has added/deleted people/events as needed. I didn't feel a connection to the book nor the characters as I read. I felt I was "flat reading", no ups or downs, thus my 3 star review.
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