3 reviews

The Movement of Stars: A Novel
by Amy Brill

Published: 2013-04-18
Hardcover : 400 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 3 members
?Gorgeous . . . Sings with insights about love, work and how we create our own families”?Oprah.com

?Amy Brill shines in her sparkling debut novel.”?Vanity Fair

 ?Brill's rich detail and research are hugely impressive; it's easy to envision the scenes she sees.”?USA Today
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?Gorgeous . . . Sings with insights about love, work and how we create our own families”?Oprah.com

?Amy Brill shines in her sparkling debut novel.”?Vanity Fair

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

?Beautifully written and richly characterized.”?Kirkus (starred review)

?A terrifically poised and captivating debut."?Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

A love story set in 1845 Nantucket, between a female astronomer and the unusual man who understands her dreams.

It is 1845, and Hannah Gardner Price has lived all twenty-four years of her life according to the principles of the Nantucket Quaker community in which she was raised, where simplicity and restraint are valued above all, and a woman’s path is expected to lead to marriage and motherhood. But up on the rooftop each night, Hannah pursues a very different?and elusive?goal: discovering a comet and thereby winning a gold medal awarded by the King of Denmark, something unheard of for a woman.

And then she meets Isaac Martin, a young, dark-skinned whaler from the Azores who, like herself, has ambitions beyond his expected station in life. Drawn to his intellectual curiosity and honest manner, Hannah agrees to take Isaac on as a student. But when their shared interest in the stars develops into something deeper, Hannah’s standing in the community begins to unravel, challenging her most fundamental beliefs about work and love, and ultimately changing the course of her life forever.

Inspired by the work of Maria Mitchell, the first professional female astronomer in America, The Movement of Stars is a richly drawn portrait of desire and ambition in the face of adversity.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


APRIL 1845


. 1 .

Hannah bent over her notebook in the half dark of the tiny room at the top of the house, squeezing the remainder of her entry onto
the very last lines of the page:
3:04 am, 12 mo. 4, 1845, she wrote. Unable to resolve nebulosity around Antares. Object sighted at 22 degrees north has not reappeared. Further observations obscured by clouds.
As if to underscore her failure, the candle at her elbow sputtered and died. For a moment, Hannah sat in the dark, ?ghting the urge to hurl it across the room, and closed her eyes. Mastering her emotions had been as much a part of her education as long division and multiplication. She hadn’t thrown anything, or stomped her feet, or wept in public in over two decades. But now, at twenty-four years of age, unmarried, she some- times wondered if she was even capable of feeling deeply about anything besides what she saw—or didn’t see—in the night sky. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. How do Hannah’s perceptions of Isaac evolve over the course of the book? To what extent does race play a role in her treatment of him?

2. As Hannah becomes aware of her feelings for Isaac, how does she handle her newfound desire? At what point does she acknowledge that their relationship has crossed over from being platonic to romantic? How does her perception of female sexuality compare to her ideas about male desire?

3. Hannah resents the fact that she must rely on men for support, but even she acknowledges that without them, she could not have achieved her goals. How does this affect her relationship with Edward? With George? With her father? With Dr. Hall? Discuss.

4. Isaac claims that he is “not a child, imagining a life that cannot be.” Is he telling the truth? At what point does he become aware that his interest in Hannah poses a problem for them both?

5. Intellectual, emotional, and physical desire is central to Hannah’s evolution as an astronomer and as a woman. How does her community thwart and/or support these different facets of femininity?

6. Compare the women in the book—Ann Gardner Price, Miss Norris, Mary Coffey, Lucia Hapwell, Millicent Rotch—to the men. How do their actions reflect their stations in life, their occupations, and the era in which they live? Do women have a greater or lesser impact on Hannah’s life than men? How does Hannah’s perception of the women in her life change over the course of the story?

7. Why does Hannah ultimately choose to leave Nantucket? Why does Isaac encourage her to go? Are the forces that guide her decision external or internal?

8. The history, geography, and topography of Nantucket are central to the narrative. In what ways is the island a character in and of itself? How does the setting impact the lives and destinies of each of the characters?

Suggested by Members

The mind vs. passion
The cost of limits based on gender, race, economy and class
Expanding our horizons
by Prudentia (see profile) 04/22/15

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Based on Lady Astronomer Maria Mitchell
by Prudentia (see profile) 04/22/15
Do a little research on Maria and print some photos of her, the island of Nantucket and the Azores to give some context to the story.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "the movement of starts"by Carolyn R. (see profile) 04/20/16

t is 1845 and Hannah Price has lived all her life according to the principles of the Nantucket Quaker community in which she was raised. She is an Astronomer and she dreams of discovering a comet (this... (read more)

  "Patience Needed But Worth It"by Prudence F. (see profile) 04/22/15

While the first third of this well-researched book moves at a snail's pace, we become more invested in Hannah Price's journey into astronomy and independence as the story evolves. Great insight into the... (read more)

by sandra i. (see profile) 11/08/14

  "A movement of stars"by Veronica P. (see profile) 12/18/13

It was slow start but became more interesting. I found it a little unbelieveable, but still enjoyed.

  "The Movement of Stars"by Lynn W. (see profile) 05/28/13

I didn't warm up to Hannah and that marred the story for me. Her interest in Isaac and his in her never took hold for me: hence ... the "unconvincing" descriptor. A goodly portion of the book explores... (read more)

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