Beyond Mr. Darcy: Romantic Historical Fiction discussion

The Movement of Stars
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Group Reads 2014 > March 2014: The Movement of Stars

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Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
A love story set in 1845 Nantucket, between a female astronomer and the unusual man who understands her dreams.

It is 1845, and Hannah Gardner Price has lived all twenty-four years of her life according to the principles of the Nantucket Quaker community in which she was raised, where simplicity and restraint are valued above all, and a woman’s path is expected to lead to marriage and motherhood. But up on the rooftop each night, Hannah pursues a very different—and elusive—goal: discovering a comet and thereby winning a gold medal awarded by the King of Denmark, something unheard of for a woman.

And then she meets Isaac Martin, a young, dark-skinned whaler from the Azores who, like herself, has ambitions beyond his expected station in life. Drawn to his intellectual curiosity and honest manner, Hannah agrees to take Isaac on as a student. but when their shared interest in the stars develops into something deeper, Hannah’s standing in the community begins to unravel, challenging her most fundamental beliefs about work and love, and ultimately changing the course of her life forever.

Inspired by the work of Maria Mitchell, the first professional female astronomer in America, The Movement of Stars is a richly drawn portrait of desire and ambition in the face of adversity.

Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
Discussion Questions

1. How do Hannah's perceptions of Isaac evolve over the course of the book? To what extent does race play a role in her treatment of him?

2. As Hannah becomes aware of her feelings for Isaac, how does she handle her newfound desire? At what point does she acknowledge that their relationship has crossed over from being platonic to romantic? How does her perception of female sexuality compare to her ideas about male desire?

3. Hannah resents the fact that she must rely on men for support, but even she acknowledges that without them, she could not have achieved her goals. How does this affect her relationship with Edward? With George? With her father? With Dr. Hall?

4. Isaac claims that he is “not a child, imagining a life that cannot be.” Is he telling the truth? At what point does he become aware that his interest in Hannah poses a problem for them both?

5. Compare the women in the book—Ann Gardner Price, Miss Norris, Mary Coffey, Lucia Hapwell, Millicent Rotch—to the men. How do their actions reflect their stations in life, their occupations, and the era in which they live? Do women have a greater or lesser impact on Hannah's life than men? How does Hannah's perception of the women in her life change over the course of the story?

Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
1. Hannah is very uncomfortable with Isaac and distrustful of him to begin with. She didn't have a lot of interaction with African-Americans in her life before and I think that definitely fed into it. Later she develops this idea that she is more advanced than he is and occasionally treats him as a child (though whether this is a race thing or just because she was used to teaching children I do not know). As she spends more time with him, she begins to appreciate his intellect and what he contributes to their lessons.

Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
2. I think Hannah really becomes aware of her feelings for Isaac that first night in the Atheneum. She handles her desires by pushing him away. She is ashamed of her feelings and feels that her desire is sinful.

3. Hannah resents Edward for not being there when she needs him, but she has the most positive feelings toward him since relying on him would be easier than relying on a husband or father. She likes George as a friend and becomes worried when he suddenly begins to have romantic feelings toward her. She is very frustrated and angry with her father for changing their situation and leaving her with two options: get married or move away with him. She views Dr. Hall as a beloved old teacher, but becomes wary as he begins proposing marriage to her. Her standing in the community at large is also very dependent on him, which leads to great conflict between the two.

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