Enlightenment A novel

Sarah Perry, 1979-

Book - 2024

"Thomas Hart and Grace Macaulay have lived all their lives in the small Essex town of Aldleigh. Though separated in age by three decades, the pair are kindred spirits--torn between their commitment to religion and their desire to explore the world beyond their small Baptist community. It is two romantic relationships that will rend their friendship, and in the wake of this rupture, Thomas develops an obsession with a vanished nineteenth-century astronomer said to haunt a nearby manor, and Grace flees Aldleigh entirely for London. Over the course of twenty years, by coincidence and design, Thomas and Grace will find their lives brought back into orbit as the mystery of the vanished astronomer unfolds into a devastating tale of love and ...scientific pursuit. Thomas and Grace will ask themselves what it means to love and be loved, what is fixed and what is mutable, how much of our fate is predestined and written in the stars, and whether they can find their way back to each other"--

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FICTION/Perry Sarah
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Location Call Number   Status
1st Floor New Shelf FICTION/Perry Sarah (NEW SHELF) Due Jul 28, 2024
Subjects
Genres
Historical fiction
Psychological fiction
Novels
Published
New York : Mariner Books [2024]
Language
English
Main Author
Sarah Perry, 1979- (author)
Edition
First U.S. edition
Item Description
Originally published in the United Kingdom in 2024 by Jonathan Cape, and imprint of Penguin Random House UK.
Physical Description
376 pages ; 24 cm
ISBN
9780063352612
9780063388253
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Perry's (The Essex Serpent, 2017; Melmoth, 2018) stunning, multilayered novel returns to the Essex countryside. Taking place across three decades, it centers on three distinct characters. Writer and columnist Thomas Hart lives two lives in the 1990s, one in London in the company of other men and the other in the company of God in the small town of Aldleigh. He is a man "with an air of altogether occupying a time not his own." Thomas' godchild, Grace Macaulay, a strange, eccentric creature also somewhat misplaced in the world, is bonded to Thomas through their Bethesda Parish. Then there is Maria Vaduva, a nineteenth-century female astronomer known as the Lowland Ghost, whom Thomas becomes obsessively drawn to. Perry's shimmering prose draws readers gradually into the story, until suddenly, we are captivated by the rich, psychologically complex, and intimate characters as they grapple philosophically with issues of faith, religion, science, astronomy, and love in all its guises. Most impressive are Perry's command of language and the extensive knowledge of astronomy and physics that she nimbly incorporates into the narrative. With brilliant storytelling, Perry's novel of dichotomies portrays how elliptical our lives are--very much like the movement of the stars.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Perry's enchanting latest (after The Essex Serpent) blends a ghost story with a meditation on astronomy and loneliness anchored on the periodic reappearances of Halley's Comet. Thomas Hart, a columnist for the small-town Essex Chronicle in 1997 England, is fascinated by the story of Maria Văduva, a resident of the historical Lowlands House whose unexplained disappearance nearly a century before may have fueled the legend of a ghost that haunts its premises. In a parallel narrative, Perry reveals Maria to have been an amateur astronomer. Her unrequited romance with a mysterious man during the same period when she discovered a comet, which fascinates Thomas when he reads their letters, echoes thematically in the 1997 story line with Thomas's memories of his secret love for a happily married man two years earlier, during the passing of Comet Hale-Bopp. Over the next 20 years, through the reappearance of Halley's Comet and the return of Maria's comet, Thomas comes to appreciate that the laws governing heavenly bodies--their recurring orbits, trajectories, and gravitational pulls--are possible templates for the eccentricities of human behavior. Perry's affection for her characters, even in their most flawed moments, adds to the fullness of their realization, as she makes it abundantly clear that the faults and frailties that distinguish them lie not in the stars but in themselves. Perry magnificently evokes the wonder of the cosmos. (June)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Astronomy and a 19th-century mystery drive the plot in a novel whose deeper subject is the struggle for faith and love. Thomas Hart, a 50-year-old columnist for the Essex Chronicle in the small English town of Aldleigh, makes furtive trips to London for gay trysts, even though he belongs to a Strict and Particular Baptist sect that tells him "his nature was an affront to God." He might have quit years ago but for his devotion since the moment she was born to Grace Macaulay, "a love he'd never sought, and could not explain." As Perry's novel begins in 1997, 17-year-old Grace also finds herself torn between her religion and her desires when she falls in love with Nathan, a local boy not a member of her church. Meanwhile, Thomas becomes intrigued by some letters found during the renovation of decrepit Lowlands House--and by James Bower, the handsome museum employee who calls them to his attention. The letters were written by Maria Văduva, who lived at Lowlands but vanished mysteriously sometime around 1887. An assignment to write about the Hale-Bopp comet passing overhead leads Thomas to figure out that Maria was an astronomer who may have made an important discovery, and Grace's chance encounter with an enigmatic homeless man supplies an important missing piece of Maria's puzzle. As they pursue a series of expertly dropped clues about Maria's intent and ultimate fate, Thomas betrays Grace's trust in a way that may destroy their friendship. Perry seamlessly blends an absorbing mystery with her principal characters' personal conflicts to create a narrative as propulsive as it is emotionally resonant. Swiftly sketched but fully realized secondary characters give the novel a social texture more commonly found in Victorian literature, an impression bolstered by Perry's intricately layered prose. Much of the story is sad, but a radiant finale suggests reconciliation and renewal. Thoughtful, sensitive, and beautifully written. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.