The Stargazer's Sister

Pantheon. Jan. 2016. 352p. ISBN 9780804197939. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780804197946. F
This latest novel from Brown (The Last First Day) focuses on Caroline (Lina) Herschel, a remarkable woman but just what the title says she is-someone's sister. Caroline's brother, William, an astronomer and a genius, rescues her from a terrible home life and servitude to their difficult mother. In exchange, Lina serves William. Certainly, she is more than just a housekeeper—she's a research assistant, companion, and confidante—but he is so driven in his astronomical pursuits that it's a wonder she survives. She loves him fiercely, believing that he is one of the greatest minds of their time, but does that mean she should live a life of total self-sacrifice and duty? Is William unrelentingly selfish, thinking only of his needs, or does his intellect and achievements excuse him? William opens up a world of wonder to Lina, bringing awe into her life, and she becomes an accomplished astronomer of her own. But readers must decide for themselves whether she has her own life or is ultimately just "the stargazer's sister."
VERDICT This beautiful and unusual book about familial love, duty, and sacrifice is based on real-life individuals, and though the story of the Herschel siblings might not be well known, it's one worth discovering. [See Prepub Alert, 7/13/15.]

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