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John G. Pipkin

THE BLIND ASTRONOMER'S DAUGHTER

The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter is a dazzling new historical novel, by the author of Woodsburner, about one woman’s life in a time of stunning scientific advancement and violent rebellion.

In late-eighteenth-century Ireland, Arthur Ainsworth and his adopted daughter, Caroline, spend their nights searching the skies for an uncharted planet that they believe is hiding inside the orbit of Mercury. But when William Herschel—who at this time is still an obscure musician and amateur astronomer living in Bath with his sister Lina—stumbles upon distant Uranus, Arthur Ainsworth is overwhelmed by jealousy, his quest turns obsessive, and he eventually ruins his eyes by staring recklessly into the sun. Soon after, Arthur throws himself from his rooftop observatory in despair, and Caroline discovers that her own life hides mysteries rivaling those of the heavens...

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WOODSBURNER

In the spring of 1844, American naturalist Henry David Thoreau accidentally set fire to 300 acres of woods near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. The consequences of this fire, told through the lives of four main characters, form the narrative heart of this wonderful debut novel.

WOODSBURNER brilliantly interweaves the story of Thoreau, a young pencil maker by trade; the unforgettable Oddmund Hus, a Norwegian immigrant and farmhand who pines for the love of a woman he cannot have; bookseller Eliot Calvert, an aspiring but largely unsuccessful playwright who must choose between his business and his art; and Caleb Dowdy, an opium-addicted Episcopal minister who believes he can prove God’s existence by seeking his own damnation. All four men are leading lives of quiet desperation when their encounter with Thoreau’s fire alters them forever.

Seamlessly combining fiction and history, WOODSBURNER chronicles these changed lives against the background of a final compelling character: the fire itself, which gains a powerful personality as it progresses toward the town and eats away at the Concord landscape.

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