I have to be honest. I have known Helen Sedgwick since she began working for Cargo Publishing and I was responsible for Reader Development in East Dunbartonshire Libraries. Helen was an editor with very high standards about the quality of writing that she considered to be acceptable for a book that she was going to be involved in publishing. She has transferred those standards to her own writing, and has produced a story of astonishing quality.
And now that I have got the caveat out of the way, I can write about the sheer joy of reading this book. It is a love story, but not in the normal sense of the word. The love affair is with the universe, and especially with the comets that burn through our night skies. This is not a book that expects you to have a detailed knowledge of the astrophysics involved in a comet tracking a path across the night sky. It does, however, expect you to look in awe and astonishment at the sheer wonder of a comet, at the incredible beauty of such a thing happening visibly and in our lifetimes.
It takes that central comet of our history, Halley’s Comet that roared across our skies in 1066, following the death of Edward the Confessor, which appeared to announce fundamental change. We are introduced to Elfgifu, the first in a long family line of comet seekers, culminating with Francois and Roisin, who meet in Antarctica at a scientific station dedicated to the watching of comets. The problem for these comet seekers is a simple one. We meet them through our two contemporaries, which means that all the rest are dead. They are ghosts. They are still seeking comets. And they invade the lives of their descendents because they are still seeking comets, and wish to pass this obsession on.
One of the ghosts, Brigitte, has to deal with the sheer horror of her death, and this is to haunt Severine, Francois’ mother, and plays a part in the development of the story which I am not prepared to reveal.
But, as i have said, this is a love story. So we learn about Roisin and her cousin Liam, and about Francois and Helene. I am not going to tell you what happens, except for what I have already said. The whole story hinges on this. And it is a story that ranges from Bayeux, through North America, to rural Ireland. It is a story about people being rooted to where they are because of the people they are descended from. And it is also a story about people escaping because they want to. It is a story that recognises that whatever you do, there are consequences. It is a story you must read for yourselves.
What I will tell you is that this book is beautifully written and the story is enthralling. It spans the history of France, England and Ireland from the 11th century to the present day. So all you have to do is settle down and wait to be dazzled by this comet trailing across the sky.