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The Movement of Stars: A Novel Hardcover – April 18, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (April 18, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487448
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487446
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #363,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Hannah Price spends her nights on the rooftop porch with a telescope pointed at the heavens, hoping to spot a new comet. During the day, she chafes under the strict discipline of her mid-nineteenth-century Quaker community in Nantucket. She also chafes under her own sense of propriety and self-discipline when she finds herself drawn to handsome and passionate Isaac, the Azorean second mate on a whaling vessel who has sought her out for instruction in navigation. Their obstacles are similar—both hope to achieve greatness in disciplines dominated by white men—and soon Hannah cannot deny her affection, much to the displeasure of her community. Brill has created a compelling and likable character in Hannah Price; it’s easy to root for her to find her comet and acknowledge her feelings for Isaac. Hannah’s search during a period of great discovery and advancement in astronomy, as well as her relationship with Isaac amid widespread abolitionist sentiments, adds up to a stirring historical drama. In an author’s note, Brill acknowledges that pioneering, Nantucket-born, comet-discovering astronomer Maria Mitchell was the inspiration for Hannah’s story. --Sarah Hunter

Review



“Amy Brill shines in her sparkling debut novel, The Movement of Stars, inspired by the work of a 19th-century female astronomer.” —Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

“Brill's rich detail and research are hugely impressive; it's easy to envision the scenes she sees.”—USA Today

"Read three sentences of Amy Brill's gorgeous The Movement of Stars and you're swiftly transported to the lantern-lit past of 1840s Quaker Nantucket... This book sings with insights about love, work and how we create our own families." —Oprah.com

“On Nantucket in the 1800s, Hannah Price struggles to obey her Quaker community while becoming an astronomer—her dream. Then exotic Isaac Martin asks to study with her, and she finds she has a lot to learn about love. Inspired by real-life astronomer Maria Mitchell, Brill's Hannah lights the way, like a comet, for women whose minds and hearts lead them beyond boundaries.”—People

"In a Nantucket whaling town, Hannah, a 24-year-old Quaker with a knack for navigation and an obsession with the night sky, teams up with an unintentionally controversial man who turns her world upside down.”—Marie Claire

“[An] unforgettable main character: Hannah Price has raised sleep deprivation to an art form in Amy Brill's strong debut novel, The Movement of Stars… Brill conveys both Hannah's love for her work and the cramped nature of the society that she outgrew without realizing it.”—The Christian Science Monitor

"An inspiring tale that is full of twists."—Bust

“Brill spins a luxurious romance about stargazing and star-crossing. Hannah Gardner Price, the heroine, driven to succeed in her field and steadfast in her right to do so, eventually becomes embroiled in an interracial romance with Isaac, an Azorean whaler she takes on as a student. Though the setting and subject may brand this a historical novel, the conflicts ring sharply contemporary—career vs. family, racial tension vs. love.”—The Village Voice

“Author Amy Brill combines several themes—women's rights, closed faith communities, life in an isolated place, practicing one's spirituality, pursuing one's dreams—and weaves them into a well-researched, well-written and entirely believable story that readers will enjoy because the themes are timeless.”—Bookreporter.com

“Brill’s debut raises thought-provoking questions on the limitations to achievement societies impose based on race, gender, or divergent beliefs. For readers of historical fiction, particularly those with an interest in science, who savor the unfolding of a character’s emotional and intellectual development.”—Library Journal

"A young woman has her eyes opened to her community’s limitations—and her own—in . . . Brill’s strong debut. . . .  Probing yet accessible, beautifully written and richly characterized: fine work from a writer to watch."—Kirkus (starred review)

"Vividly told and meticulously researched, Amy Brill's The Movement of Stars is one of the year's finest debut novels."—largehearted boy

"Brill has created a compelling and likable character in Hannah Price; it’s easy to root for her to find her comet and acknowledge her feelings for Isaac. Hannah’s search during a period of great discovery and advancement in astronomy, as well as her relationship with Isaac amid widespread abolitionist sentiments, adds up to a stirring historical drama."—Booklist

“A determined young woman, born into a Quaker community in 19th-century Nantucket, defies social norms on the path to becoming a 'lady astronomer' in Brill’s charming debut novel. . . . From the main streets of Nantucket to its dunes and shores, from a Harvard observatory to the cities of Europe, Hannah’s emotional and professional journey will please.”—Publishers Weekly

"In Hannah, Amy Brill has fashioned an extraordinary character and quiet hero—a woman who charts her own course, and who places knowledge and her own soul’s independence up with the highest, brightest stars. Nineteenth century Nantucket feels pressing and wholly vivid in this novel, and the love story at its heart blazes with real feeling and intensity. A terrifically poised and captivating debut."—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

"A spectacular debut. Amy Brill skillfully combines a forbidden love story, the struggle for women’s rights, and early scientific exploration of the heavens. I cheered for Hannah Price, our feisty heroine, as she unraveled the mystery of her own desires while burning a trail for other women to follow."—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief

"A bittersweet story, movingly told. Amy Brill’s learned and informative novel captures the unique character of mid-nineteenth century Nantucket through the life of Hannah Gardner Price, a talented amateur astronomer. Brill’s uncluttered prose mirrors her heroine’s clear eye and Quaker reserve as Hannah explores both the expanding universe and her burgeoning emotions—amid increasingly binding circumstances. A delicately handled love story, and a convincing look at the island rituals of a New England whaling community."—Daphne Kalotay, author of Russian Winter


More About the Author

I've been writing for what feels like my whole life, beginning with my first epic novel, 'The Lost Dog,' which I started in fifth grade at P.S. 14 in Queens, New York. Sadly, it remains unfinished, but I'm sure my mom still has it. As an adult, I've written articles, essays, and short stories which have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous publications including Salon, Guernica, Redbook, Real Simple, Time Out New York, and The Common. As a producer, I won a George Foster Peabody Award for a documentary about HIV that I wrote for MTV. My short story, "The Pursuit of Joe Kahn," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in fiction, and I've been awarded fellowships in fiction by the Edward Albee Foundation, Jentel, the Millay Colony, Fundación Valparaíso, and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation, as well as the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA. I live in Brooklyn with my husband and my two daughters. 'The Movement of Stars' is my first novel, and I'm very happy that it will be published by Riverhead Books on April 18, 2013.

Customer Reviews

I love novels set in historical times so this was a perfect fit for my interests.
E. B. MULLIGAN
I think the author has done a remarkable job constructing a novel after careful research of the real life and times of the woman who inspired the story.
Nomi Redding
The pacing was very slow, there just wasn't much happening in the first hundred pages either in plot line or character development.
Barb Mechalke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By KSSMPLS on May 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I am going to skip the synopsis of this wonderful novel; you can get that from the other reviews. I will just say that I spent a weekend reading the story of Hannah Price, a Quaker astronomer in Nantucket in the 1800s, with the kind of leave-me-alone-I'm-busy feeling that any book lover recognizes as hitting page-dirt. The novel explores such overarching themes of woman-in-a-man's-world, racism, religion versus science, individual versus society and, of course, astronomy, but mostly it is an engrossing story of one woman's quest for self-realization, populated by interesting, well-developed characters, brought to life by terrific writing. There is a quiet feel to the book, not surprising given the Quaker main character, but that in no way means it is not powerful and moving. I wish the character of the whaler Isaac Martin had been a little more developed. And I had mixed feelings about the ending--not because it wasn't good, but because it wasn't what I wanted. The two are often not the same, I find. I have spent most of the day thinking about The Movement of Stars, realizing that had it ended in the way I wanted, it probably would have been a lesser novel. I look forward to Ms Brill's next novel.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Barb Mechalke VINE VOICE on March 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was looking forward to this novel, it's the type of fiction I like to read, focusing on women's issues and race relations but the story just didn't pull me in. The characters never came to life for me, the main character Hannah Price was very staid and unemotional and the other characters also came across a bit flat. The pacing was very slow, there just wasn't much happening in the first hundred pages either in plot line or character development. Much of what we do learn about Hannah and her situation seems to be repeated over and over again. I found that I didn't care about these characters or what happened in their lives. I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading this book, it just wasn't to my liking.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was eager to read this book because the synopsis appealed to me - a woman born and raised in a strict Quaker community, who bucked the conventions of her time by pursuing an interest in astronomy unheard of for women during that period, and her relationship with a black man. These seemed like perfect ingredients for an engaging read and I had high expectations as I delved into the story.

I liked how the author re-imagines the life of Maria Mitchell, the 19th century woman who is recognized as America's first female astronomer. The story's protagonist, Hannah Price, is modeled after Maria Mitchell, but there are significant differences. I enjoyed reading about Hannah's pursuit of knowledge and interest in astronomy, quite a feat considering the times she lived in, especially given the context of the Quaker community where women were encouraged to view marriage and motherhood as ultimate goals in life. I expected to learn more about life in a Quaker community but this is not explored in great depth here.

The evolving relationship between Hannah and the black whaler, Isaac was credibly developed although it was somewhat marred by awkward interactions between Hannah and her father regarding her relationship with Isaac. It seemed implausible that Hannah's father, a practicing Quaker, would look upon this with mild disapproval, no matter his progressive views on race. Further, I think the work did not quite bring the 19th century world alive enough for me, and historical details and accuracy are something I find integral in period fiction. Hannah's voice, though compelling, seemed more modern than the times she lived in and though I understand this might be due to the fact that she was more forward-thinking than an average woman of the period, it just did not mesh for me.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By BrianB VINE VOICE on April 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The main character of this novel, Hannah Price, is based on Maria Mitchell, a woman born into a Quaker community on Nantucket in 1818. She eventually leaves to pursue her dream of becoming a leading astronomer and the first female professor at Vassar College, an extraordinarily difficult feat for a woman in that time and place.

The author has studied the history and the location, because many of the details align with actual events. She includes small details from Sweeper in the Sky, the occasionally melodramatic 1949 biography of Miss Mitchell. Some of the characters are invented, especially Edward, her brother and Isaac, her love interest, which may bother readers. In defense of Ms. Brill, much of Mitchell's personal life has to be imagined, because after her death, her sister destroyed all of her writings that she considered personal, "to make it proper."

The story suffers from anachronisms. I hoped to hear the voice of a 19th century woman, but Hannah often thinks and talks like a 21st century person. When Hannah's father (mildly) objected to her walking at night with a dark skinned sailor, Hannah reacts angrily, because she always considered her father "tolerant, even progressive" about race. The reaction was realistic, but is a modern discussion, not something a person would say in 1840. The progressive era was 50 years in the future, and even then the word progressive meant something radically different than the way people use it today. More jarringly, I doubt that a father in that time and place would have reacted mildly in that situation. Especially a father in a Quaker congregation that forbid marriage to non-Quakers, one that expelled women for wearing a colorful bow in their hair.
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