The Comet Seekers: Book summary and reviews of The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick

The Comet Seekers

by Helen Sedgwick

The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick X
The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2016
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic, that intertwines the past, present, and future of two lovers bound by the passing of great comets overhead and a coterie of remarkable ancestors.

Róisín and François are immediately drawn to each other when they meet at a remote research base on the frozen ice sheets of Antarctica. At first glance, the pair could not be more different. Older by a few years, Róisín, a daughter of Ireland and a peripatetic astronomer, joins the science team to observe the fracturing of a comet overhead. François, the base's chef, has just left his birthplace in Bayeux, France, for only the second time in his life. Yet devastating tragedy and the longing for a fresh start, which they share, as well as an indelible but unknown bond that stretches back centuries, connect them to each other.

Helen Sedgwick carefully unfolds their surprisingly intertwined paths, moving forward and back through time to reveal how these lovers' destinies have long been tied to each other by the skies - the arrival of comets great and small. In telling Róisín and François's story, Sedgwick illuminates the lives of their ancestors, showing how strangers can be connected and ghosts can be real, and how the way we choose to see the world can be as desolate or as beautiful as the comets themselves.

A mesmerizing, skillfully crafted, and emotionally perceptive novel that explores the choices we make, the connections we miss, and the ties that inextricably join our fates, The Comet Seekers reflects how the shifting cosmos unite us all through life, beyond death, and across the whole of time.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Uniquely structured and stylistically fascinating, the multilayered story comes full circle in a denouement that is both heartbreaking and satisfying." - Publishers Weekly

"Those who are drawn to intimate stories of family drama are sure to respond to this beautiful, character-driven novel, which is reminiscent of the work of Amy Bloom and Elizabeth Strout." - Booklist

"Readers would do well to suspend disbelief and open their hearts to the romance, the lush prose, and the mystery of Sedgwick's original and inventive debut." - Library Journal

"The image of shooting stars suggests a theme: as Róisín explains, 'All those stars we see...they're dead already. They have exploded, rejected everything that they were, and the raw components, the elements they were made of, that is where life comes from.' But this idea of transformation is only barely hinted at, and, except for Severine, the characters persist in sadness. Unlike shooting stars, Sedgwick's yearning protagonists seem unable or unwilling to "shower the world with light." - Kirkus

"Haunting and beautiful, The Comet Seekers follows a constellation of lives from modern Antarctica to medieval England, all of them connected by an extraordinary mystery hidden deep in the past. A captivating story, deftly told, about those who are driven to explore, and those who must stay behind." - Helene Wecker, New York Times bestselling author of The Golem and the Jinni

"Helen Sedgwick has written a first novel of remarkable grace, beauty and insight, in which a careful love of language meets an immense storytelling talent. I was moved and inspired by this book." - Joseph O'Connor, author of Star of the Sea

"The Comet Seekers is a brave and tender debut from one of the brightest new stars of the literary world. It's one of the most vivid, original and magical books I've read in years." - Kirsty Logan, author of The Gracekeepers

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Reader Reviews

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Rebecca H. (Bolton, CT)

The Comet Seekers
This novel tells the story of two protagonists, Roisin, an Irish astronomer, and Francois, a French chef. Themes of longing and loss, belonging and freedom, longing for the past and hope for the future, sound throughout the narrative. The stories of secondary characters whose lives impact those of Roisin and Francois intertwine throughout.
The novel's structure revolves around the appearance, at intervals through history, of comets in the skies. As the book progresses, we see how the stories of all these characters run parallel, touch briefly, and then intersect each other. The reader must pay careful attention to the chapter headings (Halley's Comet, Comet Giacobini, etc.) in order to keep track of the narrative as it shoots between time periods and points of view. The absence of quotation marks when characters are speaking may also be challenging. This novel is worth the attention, though. The writing is graceful and compelling and the quirky characters moving and enchanting.
Romance, magic realism, ghost story, historical novel, fantasy; all are elements that combine to make this book a wonderful read.

Portia A. (Monroe Township, NJ)

A Beautiful Story
Once I started reading I couldn't stop. The stories of a family spanning a millennium, all tied together by the passing of comets. There is love, there are ghosts real or imagined, there are regrets and there are choices. A very beautiful story.

Cindy B. (Houston, TX)

Not exactly what I expected
The Comet Seekers is beautifully written. I was so excited to read it based on the summary and other reviews I had read. Somehow, I just did not totally connect with the story. There are SO many characters that I found it hard to keep up with them all. I also just did not love the story line. Sedgwick's prose is lyrical, and I truly enjoyed reading her writing so after several days of thinking about the book after I finished it, I decided to give it 3.5 stars.

Her descriptions of Antarctica are very descriptive, and I felt like I was being transported there. She conveys the isolation, the darkness, and the ice and cold phenomenally well. That was my favorite part of the book by far (and the cover which is spectacular). Thanks to BookBrowse for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Martha D. (Hillsboro, OR)

The Comet Seeker
First off I should say I'm a sucker for stories with even a hint of magic in them. Much like Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman, Helen Sedgwick took ordinary people and gave them extraordinary lives.

With the backdrop of comets and stars, Roisin and Francois lives and the lives of their families unfold with all the small and grand moments that make life interesting. I loved spending time in their world and was sorry when it had to end. A true sign of a good book is slowing down near the end hoping to make it last just a little bit longer. Helen Sedgwick has a good book on her hands.

Doris K. (Angora, MN)

The Comet Seekers
This is an interesting story based on many eras and a variety of people connected by their fascination with comets. We learn early the Roisin and Francois are together in Antarctica. How they get there is a convoluted story involving many generations of two separate families. The story line jumps from 1066-2017 and the years in between.
Basically I enjoyed the book, but the short scenes are rather distracting and don't allow for sufficient character development. This is the main reason I chose to give it 4 stars instead of 5.

Cheryl M. (Le Claire, IA)

The Comet Seekers
From 1456 through 2017, major comets displays judged from mediocre to brilliant are tracked. These comets seem magical by members of Roisin and Francois and their families.

Roisin and Francois seem to have a special bond, not explained by their backgrounds. Roisin was raised in Ireland and Franois was raised in France. Roisin has an unexplained desire to see new and different places, running from commitment, seeking something inexpicable. Francois, on the other hand, seems content to stay in one place his entire life, pushed on by his grandmere, and the pull to find something he cannot define. Both face their own demons and desires, and the eventual safety and security they find each other.

Does the past influence our future? Is it in our genes, our heritage? Can it follow us where ever we go? Sedgewick explores these questions through a tightly woven story of family and comets that come and go. The book was easy to read with a depth not uncovered until the very end. I think the characters could have been developed more, their angst and longings better defined. The story line was interesting and unusual. I would recommend reading this book, although it isn't for everyone.

...6 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Helen Sedgwick

Helen Sedgwick is a writer, editor, and physicist, who grew up in London and now lives in the Scottish highlands. Helen was the managing director of Cargo Publishing from 2014 to 2015, and she founded Wildland Literary Editors in 2012. The same year she won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award and since then her writing has been published internationally and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She was awarded a distinction from the MLitt in Creative Writing at Glasgow University in 2008. Before that, she worked as a research physicist, earning a PhD in Physics from Edinburgh University. She lives near the Dornoch Firth with her partner, photographer Michael Gallacher.

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