Introverted, respectable, intelligent, and devoutly Quaker, Hannah Gardner Price spends her days working at the local Nantucket Atheneum and her nights scanning the stars in search of a comet that she hopes will earn her a prestigious King of Denmark Prize. But in 1845, the path to scientific achievement isn’t an easy one for a single girl of 24, and Hannah soon finds herself at a crossroad when her father announces he’s remarrying and moving to Philadelphia, meaning Hannah must either marry ASAP or abandon her night-sky vigils. As she contemplates a marriage of convenience, Hannah begins to fall in love with a whaler who, like Hannah, finds his dreams hemmed in by society’s prejudices. As their feelings for each other intensify and community censure begins to rain down upon their interracial romance, Hannah finds herself questioning all she’s been taught about race, community, and character.
Using the famed 19-century astronomer Maria Mitchell as her model, Amy Brill has cast Hannah as a strong, feminist protagonist. Although at times Hannah’s path to independence is frustratingly slow, overall it’s an inspiring tale that is full of twists—most surprising, but a few less so. Detailed, but readable, The Movement of Stars proves that historical fiction doesn’t need to have royal intrigue or bodice-ripping sex scenes to be interesting.
By Erica Wetter