Title: The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter
Author: John Pipkin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Plot: The book follows a couple characters, Caroline Ainsworth, Arther Ainsworth, William Hershel, Caroline Hershel, Finnagen (Finn) O’Siodha, and James Sammuels during the mid-1700’s and follows them through the early-1800’s in England and Ireland. All are connected through astronomy. Arther Ainsworth is Caroline Ainsworth’s “father.” Caroline A was given to Arther in secret after his wife and children die in childbirth. Caroline was found by Finn on his way to his adoptive family. His adoptive family’s father is a blacksmith who already has enough mouths to feed, but takes them in anyway. The family calls Caroline A Siobhan. An accident at the forge left Caroline A with a withered arm. Still Arther takes her in out of grief in exchange for a chance for Finn’s adoptive family to own their own land that they rent from Arther in exchange for the child and making and/or fixing astronomy equipment. Arther teaches Caroline A everything he knows about astronomy. She helps Arther with his calculations. Arther is determined to find a new planet. But William Hershel, with some help from his sister Caroline H, gets lucky and finds one first. Arther goes crazy trying to find his planet. After Arther goes blind and dies, Caroline A flees Ireland for England.
William and Caroline Hershel grew up in Germany but moved to England. Both are musicians who love astronomy. They give music lessons by day and watch the stars by night. William finds something new in the sky and tracks it until he is sure of what it is, a new planet. He names it George’s Star (later called Uranus).
Finn travels to Scotland after Caroline A leaves for England. He becomes a tinker and fixer, fixing medical equipment and helping those who can’t afford to pay. All the while, trying to find something to help with Caroline A’s withered arm. After seeing something unusual in a town market, it gives him an idea. When his trials scare the locals, Finn fleas for Ireland.
James Sammuels was a former student of the Hershel siblings. When we meet him again, he is a secretary for the English landlords in Dublin. He has a strange sleeping disorder, that confuses the local doctors. He dreams of traveling, but his disorder, and his fear, keep him from his dream. He tells his story of the Irish rebellion from the lofty vantage point in Dublin.
Then it goes through all of their journeys through the Irish rebellion. Caroline returns to Ireland to sell her astronomy equipment after helping male astronomers with their calculations. She and Finn reconnect. They fall in love only for Finn to be roped into fighting with the United Irishmen and being their blacksmith. Will Finn survive? Will Caroline and Finn be reunited? What will happen to James?
Rating: 3.0 – Not a bad read. Not the most thrilling book I’ve ever read. Not a fan of the time jumps and how the author switches characters.
Opinion: This was not my favorite book. I found myself skimming parts. While I enjoyed learning about astronomy and Irish and English history during the mid-1700’s to early 1800’s I found the plot boring. The story started at one point, jumped back 30 years, and took 150 pages to get back to the starting point. The author is great with details, but added too many details for my liking. I thought the book would center around the Ainsworth’s and Finn and his family, but the author added other characters that added more to the history of the time than the actual plot. The book itself was not at all bad, it just focused more on the history and details than I was expecting and seemed to diverge from the main plot points too much for my liking. If you don’t mind time jumps and chapter character switches, then read this book.