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The Comet Seekers
Cover of The Comet Seekers
The Comet Seekers
A Novel
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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.

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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About the Author-
  • 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.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 29, 2016
    Former research physicist Sedgwick mines the mysteries of the solar system and human desire to craft a haunting and wonderfully ethereal debut novel about first loves, inescapable loss, and the search for one’s place in a complicated world. When Róisín, an Irish scientist studying comets, and François, a French chef, reunite at a research base in the frigid wilds of Antarctica in 2017, the two seem virtually broken because of their respective pasts. Róisín, who followed her intergalactic studies from Ireland and France to Hawaii and New York over the course of decades, spent just as many years trying to make sense of and move beyond an illicit relationship with her cousin Liam. François arrived at the base with his own baggage: Severine, his dying mother, had insisted throughout her life that the ghosts of her ancestors are real. Sedgwick tackles a centuries-spanning interconnected narrative by placing each chapter within the context of a comet’s appearance in the sky. The sections that chronicle Severine’s conversations with her dearly departed are marked by their magical realism, but those that explore Róisín and Liam’s star-crossed romance are the standouts, both quietly moving and delicately portrayed. Uniquely structured and stylistically fascinating, the multilayered story comes full circle in a denouement that is both heartbreaking and satisfying.

  • Kirkus

    Haunted characters struggle to find fulfillment.In her ambitious but flawed debut novel, journalist, editor, and former research physicist Sedgwick leaps through time, from 1066 to the present, following the trajectories of her characters' lives as various comets surge gloriously through the night skies. She focuses on four main characters: cousins Roisin and Liam are star-crossed lovers both because of their consanguinity and their unbridgeable differences. Roisin, an astronomer, wants to travel the world researching the cosmos; Liam is committed to staying on his family's farm. The second pair is a mother and son, Severine and Francois. Even as a child, Francois longed to explore far-off places, from South American jungles to Antarctica's "wild emptiness"; but Severine will not leave their native Bayeux, France, because she is surrounded there by 11 ghosts from her family's long past. These ghosts are the novel's liveliest characters: playful, teasing, and so comforting that Severine cannot live without them; they are more crucial to her than Francois. "Why should she have to choose," she asks herself, "between her ghosts and her son?" Among the ghosts, Severine is especially attached to her grandmother, "who everyone thought was crazy, who made the world come alive, whose smile made Severine feel special, and loved." Because Granny's ghost treats her like a child, Severine seems infantilized--or, maybe, crazy. Francois can hardly make sense of his strange mother. Rather than allowing her characters to evolve, Sedgwick belabors their predicaments in chapter after chapter. The image of shooting stars suggests a theme: as Roisin 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." COPYRIGHT(1) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2016
    Irish astronomer Roisin comes to Antarctica to watch for a disintegrating comet, worldwide travel being something she embraces. Base-camp chef Francois has just left Bayeux, France, for the second time in his life. Both are ducking tragedy, and they launch a passionate affair, unaware that their bond magically goes back centuries. Sedgwick has won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award; with a 50,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Elle (Book of the Month) "A gorgeous novel that should resonate with fans of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveller's Wife...A breath-taking tale of love, loss and heartbreak. You'll be utterly captivated from the first page."
  • Carmela Ciuraru, New York Times "An exquisitely layered, thrilling novel, which leaps across centuries and continents to delve into the role of destiny and the elusiveness of perception and memory."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "A haunting and wonderfully ethereal debut novel about first loves, inescapable loss, and the search for one's place in a complicated world . . . Uniquely structured and stylistically fascinating, the multilayered story comes full circle in a denouement that is both heartbreaking and satisfying."
  • Helene Wecker, New York Times bestselling author of THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI "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."
  • Andrea Barrett, New York Times Book Review "A fluid narrative voice, pointedly lyrical and without a trace of irony, gives equal weight to the perceptions of both ghosts and living characters. And, as in the work of contemporary fabulists like Kelly Link, Helen Oyeyemi and Audrey Niffenegger, the real intersects matter-of-factly with the supernatural...A different spin to the idea of a love that's meant to be."
  • Glamour "A stellar love story that echoes down decades and centuries."
  • Booklist "Readers will be enveloped in the magical world that Sedgwick creates and will grapple with the big issues she tackles-love, family, freedom, and loneliness. Those 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."
  • Library Journal "Sedgwick weaves science and the imagination into a melancholy yet magical tale...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."
  • Kirkus "In her ambitious . . . debut novel, journalist, editor, and former research physicist Sedgwick leaps through time, from 1066 to the present, following the trajectories of her characters' lives as various comets surge gloriously through the night skies."
  • Joseph O'Connor, author of STAR OF THE SEA "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."
  • Kirsty Logan, author of THE GRACEKEEPERS "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."
  • Leslie Parry, author of CHURCH OF MARVELS "Inspired by the mysteries of the Bayeux Tapestry, a work of art nearly a millennium old, THE COMET SEEKERS weaves an exquisite tale of love and fate, impermanence and infinity, the pull of the sky and the bonds of earth. Helen Sedgwick charts the paths of the cosmos and the human heart with unnerving intelligence and grace. This is a novel about the universe, yes, but also about spaces small and secret-the homes we make for ourselves: how we build them, why we leave, and what it means to stay. A luminous debut."
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