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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel Book Review:

While I found this in the historical fiction section, it felt more like a biography. My guess it that this is because the primary reference documents were letters, parts of which are printed directly into the text and so
the author makes some extrapolations as to Galileo’s actual thoughts and some other details. The letters are unfortunately only from his daughter to him, as those he wrote to her were destroyed after the daughter’s death by the abbess of her nunnery due to the possible heresy of Galileo’s work. I found this book to be well written and fascinating. It moves very quickly and provides or hypothesizes into the details of the relationships in Galileo’s life. It also provides a glimpse into the period he lived in which seems so dramatically different than the way the world works today. Though it was in the fiction section of my bookstore I felt that it was very well researched. While it moves quickly the plot is not dialogue based, it makes a lot of sense as that would really shift it to the really fictional historical fiction and the author has enough material to make it interesting without the dialogue. Some of the letter excerpts do kind of serve like dialogue as for most of their lives this is the primary mode of communication between Galileo and his daughter because of their sometimes very great physical separation. Their relationship is still very close and mention is made of near daily writing and of gifts and projects moving back and forth between them. Sadly they were both afflicted with poor health and she passed on shortly after him, in this book it seems that she put so much energy into helping him in addition to aiding her nunnery above and beyond her required duties that she didn’t have much left after his death having neglected herself. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the period and anyone who is interested in getting an idea of what Galileo’s personal life might have been like beyond his work. It also illuminates Galileo’s relationship with the Church that condemned and banned his work from publishing.

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