Top positive review
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Drama, intrigue and astronomy
on 19 October 2011
I already knew a little about Kepler and Galileo and was aware they were contemporaries and that their views were against the religious teachings of the day. What I didn't realise was that they were fighting their respective corners against a backdrop of religious turmoil and war with an eminent cast of duplicitous characters.
Stuart Clark uses his imagination to flesh out the details between the well-recorded major events and has crafted a fast-paced story interweaving the lives of Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei. The two men had found evidence that could change the centuries old view about the universe at a time when it was not wise to challenge the religious status quo. Both risked death for their beliefs.
What I particularly like is Stuart Clark's account of the day-to-day detail of living in 17th century Europe. The sights, sounds, smells and colours of the streets, houses and inns make for fascinating reading. His vivid descriptions of street theatre, traders, architecture, clothing, family life and the tedium of travelling (and moving house) show us how these people really lived. This is what Kepler's and Galileo's days were like in between moments of mathematical and observational insight and this is what brings the novel to life.
Stuart Clark's style is eloquent and entertaining and with the story flitting between Rome, Prague and Florence (and wherever Kepler found himself next), there is no time to get bored as we chase the main characters around Europe.
I somehow expected the book to end with the deaths of Kepler and Galileo although these two events are noted in the Epilogue. Instead, Stuart Clark chose to leave the stories of both characters on relatively positive notes. I felt slightly cheated - but maybe I was just annoyed to get to the end of the book.
I have no idea if cardinals really were that scheming or whether Prague really was that smelly but it all makes for a good story. In short - The Sky's Dark Labyrinth is a damn good read!