Who among us hasn’t gazed at the sky above and not wondered about the millions of others who are sharing the same view? Space has the dual effect of humbling the human existence and strengthening ideas of a common humanity. With her debut novel, Helen Sedgwick takes that common astronomic fantasy and weaves a whimsical tale of family, love, and magical realism.
François, born to the young, adventurous Severine, is raised to love the world for its wide horizons. As a young boy he goes on small adventures with his mother, and expects grander ones to come as he grows older. Severine, however, is soon caught up in the ghosts of their family’s past. At every comet sighting, their ghostly relatives visit the family home. The comets are a blessing and a curse, and the possibility of a grand, adventurous life Severine envisioned for herself and François quickly diminishes.
For Roísín, the comets are her key to freedom. Having grown up in a small Irish village, Roisin has longed to map the mysteries of space. The only thing that might hold her back is her strong bond with her cousin. Liam, uninterested in space, is content with life in the small village, determined to rebuild his life around a tragic childhood.
François and Roísín meet in Antarctica, a world away from the rest of the world, where the sky seems to be at your fingertips. They are immediately pulled towards each other, and with their meeting, two over-arching narratives intersect.
This is a beautifully written story and I was blissfully happy getting lost in it. Sedgwick conjures up enchanting landscapes; green-flecked Scottish cliffs, expansive Irish paddocks, cobbled Paris streets, and magical skies abound. The fantastical was such a large part in the ordinary lives of these characters. The presence of the supernatural and extra-terrestrial are a constant reminder that life can be exciting and limitless. The story is quietly dramatic, with great, tragic acts with the in between everyday moments of wonder and joy.
The narrative is character-driven, alternating between Roísín and François’s perspectives. It jumps between past and present, using the advent of comets throughout history to map out the significant events in the characters’ lives. This fragmented style works surprisingly well, and Sedgwick leaves enough clues for the reader to connect the dots.
There are constant parallels throughout, and everything converges with Roísín and François’s meeting. There’s a satisfaction of everything coming full-circle. This book will certainly appeal to readers who loves family sagas, and mysteries of the past finally being laid to rest. As with life, the story contains tragedy and sorrow, but there’s also humour and hope. It’s a book to fall in love with, so don’t deny yourself the pleasure.