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Theater of the Stars: A Novel of Physics and Memory Hardcover – July 16, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* After discovering a black hole, American astrophysicist Lucienne is in Paris to accept a prestigious award to be presented by her formidable and mysterious mother, a French physicist who somehow ended up at Los Alamos at the height of the Manhattan Project. Estranged from her husband, Lucienne is painfully aware that she has always put her work first, as has her mother, and finds the grim metaphor manifest in the black hole, which pulls everything into its inescapable darkness, bracingly ironic. But nothing could prepare her for the shocking revelations that unfold over the course of Kelby's elegant, spellbinding, and ingenious tale. Acclaimed for her debut, In the Company of Angels (2000), Kelby brilliantly dramatizes everything from rape to murder to the Nazi occupation of Paris to the North African front to the uneasy friendship between the lonely son of a Parisian furrier and the son of their Moroccan housekeeper to the atomic bomb to the tragedies of September 11. Kelby's radioactive spider web of a novel is as psychologically loaded as it is suspenseful, as penetrating in its condemnation of war as in its searing insights into twisted love and fractured families. Donna Seaman
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Review

"Both mysterious and a novel about secrets—secret actions and the secret emotions that provoke them." -- Washington Post Book World

"Packed with revolving themes... Kelby's writing has a dreamy quality." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Unique and moving...Kelby...has a real gift for description...electrically vivid." -- St Petersburg Times
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1 edition (July 16, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786868589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786868582
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,166,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Susan O'Neill on July 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully and economically written, minutely-researched, thoroughly engaging, disquieting novel that illustrates how human intentions and motivations become nearly irrelevant in the march of both public and personal history. Set in present-day Paris, it flashes back into the strange, nerdish world of nuclear research that led, ultimately, to the bombing of Hiroshima. It stretches into astrology, dabbles in human treachery and touches upon our human eagerness to judge others by culture and creed. It picks through memory, showing the reader a reality that the characters themselves can never fully see even as they live it.
All these big themes in fewer than 300 pages, in which a woman searches for the truth about her unknown father as her mother lies dying.
I ordered this book because I loved "In the Company of Angels"--so much that I've sent it out to just about everybody I know. This novel is quite different in form and content from its predecessor, which relied heavily on magical realism, but it is no less masterful. But in both books, Kelby's ability to put life into perspective through her writing--the talent to show the proverbial "universe in a drop of water"--is phenomenal.
"Theater of the Stars" had me turning pages and staying up late; I was far from disappointed in the ending, but I was definitely disappointed that it had to end so soon. I seldom read a book twice, but I've already started on my second time through. There's so much here.
Susan O'Neill, Author, Don't Mean Nothing: Short Stories of Viet Nam
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Larry L. Looney on December 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
After reading Nicole Kelby's first novel, the brilliant and moving IN THE COMPANY OF ANGELS, I naturally worried that her next work would fall short of the high mark her debut attained. I needn't have been concerned. THEATER OF THE STARS shows without a doubt that she is a writer of exceptional talent and spirit - and that she has stories to convey that will leave an imprint on the soul of the reader long after the last page has been read.
The great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky saw time as continually folding back upon itself, doubling itself at every instant, with the past continually co-existing with the present. I got a sense of that while reading this novel: the focus jumps from chapter to chapter between the present and the past, but it does so effortlessly and fluidly, never leaving me with the feeling that I was being jerked around. Kelby's gentle but thorough style, and her incredible sense of feeding information to the reader at just the right pace are responsible of this, I believe.
The story concerns a journey of memory and spirit undertaken by several characters, centering on two women, a mother and daughter. Both of them are physicists - and both of them have dizzying gaps in their memories of their pasts. When they set about to fill these gaps, and to reconcile the emptiness and pain they feel, a labyrinth of paths and lives appears - it is the unraveling of this labyrinth that draws the reader through the journey undertaken by these characters, and there are many wonderful discoveries to be made about them and ourselves along the way. There is quite a bit of science at play in the book - but not so much that a layman can't both appreciate and enjoy the ride.
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By S. Keith on July 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm working backwards through Kelby's novels. I started with Whale Season which was remarkable cover to cover, every page, every sentence. However, Theater of the Stars worried me throughout the beginning of the book. I started to wonder if it was as good as Whale Season, but once the separate stories of lives started to show relevance with each other, the book became much more interesting. I couldn't put it down. An entirely different story concept written in the same style, Theater of the Stars is equal if not better than Whale Season, and I can't wait to read In the Company of Angels.
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By R. Lee Holz on November 27, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Theater of the Stars is very different from Whale Season but is characterized by the same fluid writing style and engaging character development. The former is tragic and the later richly comedic. In terms of entertainment, I enjoyed the comedy more than the tragedy. If either book had a deeper message, I missed it.
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By Sara Diane on February 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kelby is one of those writers you fall in love with--you can't quite say why, except that her stories are thoughtful, unique, and very well told. I highly recommend any of her books.
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