Author: Lawrence Goldstone
Title: The Astronomer: A Novel Of Suspense
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Walker & Company
Book Length: 290 pages
The Gist: During the reign of Francois I of France, student Amaury de Faverges, a student at the Catholic College de Montaigu accepts an assignment on behalf of the French Inquisitor to uncover an alleged reformist plot located in Nerac. If left to fester, the alleged plot could undo all of Christianity.
The Review: I found Lawrence Goldstone’s The Astronomer: A Novel Of Suspense interesting mainly because 99% of the action takes place in France. I really enjoy historical fiction particularly those set in the Tudor period of which this story takes place, but most of these books that I have read take place in England. So a story in the Tudor and Reformation period that takes place in France was refreshing to me. I enjoyed the parts of the story from King Francois I’s perspective– a perspective that treats Henry VIII and his infamous marital troubles like an insignificant gnat.
When he’s not overly concerned with creating atmosphere, Goldstone does a pretty good job creating an air of intrigue. The interplay of the characters quickly becomes complicated and no one can be trusted. And Goldstone does a pretty good job of layering on motives, creating gray spaces, and generally demonstrating the complexity of the politics of the time–of portraying the bad guys as having equally good motives while their methods to carry those motives out are highly questionable even evil. It just shows that more often than not, no one human being is completely good or completely evil. Although there are exceptions. But that’s a whole different discussion.
Anyway. The one big complaint that I have about Goldstone’s The Astronomer: A Novel Of Suspense is: It could have been written better. Many times as I happily read along, I found my reading jerking to a halt because the sentence structure made me want to bust out laughing. And the urgency of the situation that Goldstone tries to portray disappears. For example, a major character who has intent to cause harm follows another major character. This character is rather nervous about the assignment. Goldstone writes: He exploded in perspiration. After I read that sentence, I could hear every English teacher or English professor I ever had tell me in scathing tones that people do not explode in perspiration. What Goldstone really wants to say here is that perspiration exploded or erupted on this character’s skin. Or something like that. Indeed, people do not explode in perspiration.
Why am I making such a big deal out of this one sentence? Because similar writing faux pas happen elsewhere in the book and the error above is a very basic writing error that should have been caught by an editor and it should have been corrected by the author. Such poor writing causes the writer to appear like an idiot in the eyes of the reader. A good editor should have caught this mistake and the author should have caught it before the editor.
So. Do I think Goldstone is an idiot? Of course not. What I do think is that Goldstone tries too hard to create atmosphere and he really doesn’t have to try so hard. When Goldstone describes wooded areas and forests and describes their dangers and intricacies, I felt like I was in those woods. I got the sense of fear and danger. All without the over use of similes and metaphors which lead to hyperbole.
So is Lawrence Goldstone’s The Astronomer: A Novel Of Suspense worth reading? It depends on your reading temperament. If you want a short, mostly suspenseful novel and you’re willing to ignore some basic writing errors, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. However, I became too distracted by the hyperbole and the writing mistakes to fully enjoy the book.