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The Astronomer: A Novel of Suspense Hardcover – May 11, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in 1534, Goldstone's uneven novel of historical suspense, his second after The Anatomy of Deception, finds the Inquisition taking corrective measures against the unremitting attacks on Catholic orthodoxy: namely the rack, the stake, and that old crowd pleaser, the gibbet. But there are other, equally pernicious forms of heresy. Consider a dangerous free-thinker like the much too famous astronomer Copernicus, for instance, and his bizarre insistence that the sun, not the earth, is the center of the universe. In Paris, young Amaury de Faverges is getting unsettling whiffs of the heady aroma of intellectual ferment. Though successfully recruited by the Inquisition, Amaury eventually turns against his draconian masters, giving the beset Copernicus reason to thank his lucky stars. Goldstone brings the sights, sounds, and furious politics of 16th-century France to vivid life, but his major characters are under-imagined—stick figures out of historical fiction central casting. (May)
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“To describe Lawrence Goldstone's The Astronomer as a great historical whodunit, is to do it a gross injustice. For though it is that, too, and in the most superb way, it is a lot, lot more. By artfully weaving theological conflicts and personal dilemmas with a well-crafted murder story, set in the early years of the Reformation, Goldstone manages both to illuminate the human side of a fascinating historical era and to add spiritual depth to the lives of the people caught up in its wheels. A writer who has shown, time and again, that it is possible to be highly entertaining and profound at the same time, gives us a perfect example of that rarest of species: a novel which can delight the lover of mysteries without disappointing one bit the reader of serious fiction.” ―Apostolos Doxiadis, author of Logicomix

“Lawrence Goldstone has produced a thinking person's suspense novel, a moral thriller whose plot is propelled along by ideas as much as by action. The novel's hairpin turns lead us through the history of astronomy, the politics of religion, questions of loyalty and faith, and the grubby labyrinth that was sixteenth-century Paris.” ―Ross King, author of Brunelleschi's Dome

“Clever, fast-moving, and richly depicted, The Astronomer is the kind of book that makes you forget about dinner―until you smell the chicken burning in the oven.” ―New York Journal of Books

“Goldstone keeps his 16th-century themes--murder, religious fanaticism, espionage and court intrigue” ―moving at a 21st-century pace." –Kirkus

“Goldstone, author of last year's The Anatomy of Deception (2008), again turns his attention to the problem of traditional thinking versus the scientific approach to the physical world. Set in 1534 Paris, after the murder of a young man on a mission for the Inquisition, Amaury de Faverges, an astronomer, is forced by circumstances to take on an undercover assignment for the good of Catholicism and on behalf of the inept and unpredictable monarch, Francois I. In the course of his investigation, Amaury bumps elbows with John Calvin and Nicolaus Copernicus, whose ideas open new vistas for a young man already nagged by religious doubt and a dawning certainty that Earth is not the center of the universe. The author nicely balances the reality of torture and injustice in the Middle Ages with the beginnings of enlightened thinking and the history of a new ideology. A taut aura of impending violence, a darkness of spirit, and a likable young academic invite comparison to Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia (2010) and Heresy by S. J. Parris.” ―Booklist


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1 edition (May 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802719864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802719867
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,786,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. W. Gortner VINE VOICE on October 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Lawrence Goldstone's The Astronomer is a rare offering: a cerebral thriller/adventure story that plunges the reader into the treacherous world of religious strife in France on the eve of the brutal Wars of Religion between Protestants and Catholics. Amaury de Faverges, illegitimate son of the duke of Savoy, secretly yearns to learn more about scientific theories forbidden by the Church; when a beloved classmate of his in the austere academy where he studies is murdered in a Parisian alley, Amaury is drafted to take the dead boy's place and foil a heretical plot that could challenge the very foundations of the Church.

While all of this may sound a little familiar, Mr Goldstone has managed to steer clear of the expected cliches and craft instead a taut, suspenseful and erudite look at the 16th century's struggle to reconcile science with faith, and the vast fear that prevaded the Church as men sought explanations in the natural world, rather than relying on accepted dogma. Goldstone peppers his fast-moving tale with a host of interesting characters, including a young prostitute seeking redemption, a deformed monk intent on vengeance, and a stodgy but brilliant Copernicus in the last years of his life. In a time of novels that seem to focus primarily on the lascivious sex lives of royals, The Astronomer is a refreshing departure into the grit, turmoil and savagery of an era at odds with itself.
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By jhdflyer on February 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best thing about this book is its historical accuracy. It is a good look a life in the middle ages and the conflicts that went on between the established church and the rise of Lutheranism. However, Mr Goldstone ( with wife Nancy) has alredy written a definitive work on social conflicts in the middle ages, "Friar and Cipher."

As a work of fiction The Astromomer is not so good, Think of the Goldstones as a team--and also read Nancy's works,, The Lady Queen; The Four Queens; and The Maid and the Queen.
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Format: Hardcover
The Astronomer takes place in France during the 16th century, at the pinnacle of science colliding with religion. Amidst some of the harshest, most unforgiving religious times ever seen, Nicolaus Copernicus makes a discovery that will change the way everyone views the world. Change of any kind did not usually bode well for the Catholic Church, which viewed science as the devil's work and thought it blasphemous for individuals to attempt to solve the mysteries behind God's many wonders. One of my favorite quotations from the book challenges this ideal, "[He] reveled in the glory of God's creation, of finding that the full cup of knowledge had not been given to Man at once, but had been left for Man to discover for himself over time (pg 178)."

The fear by many at the time that the publication of Copernicus's discoveries would counteract Church doctrine is, looking back now after having read the book, completely ridiculous and unfounded. The notion of heliocentric orbit (the idea that the Earth orbits the sun, and not visa versa) was not, in all actuality, even a Catholic vs. Lutheran issue. Geocentric theory (the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe) originated with Aristotle, who was by no means a Christian. He and his fellow Greek philosophers were pagans well before Christianity even existed. And nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Earth is the center of the universe. Yet many leaders in the Church felt that if this new scientific data proving heliocentric orbit was shared with the public, it would discredit Church dogma. The geocentric model was a view that had been upheld from the 3rd century up until the time in which this novel takes place, and it was a "fact" that had been supported by the Church throughout all those years.
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Format: Hardcover
I was loving the book as I went through the history of the early Lutheran split and multiple heresies as described in the book, including the French king's persecutions of the heretics, however my thought process came to a sudden stop when our protagonist had a supper of potatoes in central Germany in 1534. The potato was not a food product in Europe at the time. Most evidence was that it came to Europe shortly thereafter but was not a common food product until much later (50 or more years). This made me start wondering what other parts of a historical nature of the book went by the wayside in the telling of the story. However other than that single thing, and the movement of the "Placards" to another time but in the same year, I felt that the overall flow of the book was fine and ended a good story.
One of the problems of writing a mystery set in another era, especially when the era is not well documented in the day to day lives of the people, there is a tendency to place the author's era's values and thought processes in the minds of the characters of the story. However Mr. Goldstone seemed to try to make the novel fit the mores of the time and place, which is why I was surprised at the anachronism of the potato in late medieval central Europe. I'll try his other novels but with a more cautious eye to reading.
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I was excited to hear that there was a new novel out about the Scientific Revolution. Since I teach that stuff, it's a bit of a guilty pleasure (or busman's holiday) to read it for relaxation, and it is so rare to get a good novel that doesn't simply rehash (and elaborate) the old science VERSUS religion theme. Goldstone's novel is set in the 1530s in France (with a climax in Poland -- for those of you who know your history of science, you now know who the astronomer is, but the rest of you can wait to find out) and revolves around the idea of science as a proxy for the Catholic/Lutheran struggles engulfing Western Europe at that time. Many of the characters are real (you will me Rablais and Calvin, as well as some less well-known but still real Catholic Inquisitors), and the main character Aumary is a Catholic scholar with Lutheran leanings. Murders, intrigue, and debate follow. I'd say there are only one or two gratuitous scenes in the book, and a number of passages worth reciting to students trying to grasp the history of science in this period. I won't quite put it at the level of Iain Pear's Instance of the Fingerpost, but it is close. Thank you Mr. Goldstone.
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