Friday, July 05, 2024

Paris in July: An Astronomer in Love by Antoine Laurain

What a delight this book was! I have read a couple of other books by this author so I did expect to be charmed by it, but this was next level.

We first meet Guillaume Joseph Hyacinthe Jean-Baptiste Le Gentil de La Galaisiere, astronomer tothe Academie Royale des Sciences, as he boards a ship bound for India. Guillaume has been ordered by no lesser person that His Majesty Louis XV "to measure, with the aid of his telescopes and astronomical instruments, the true (rather than the supposed) distance from the Earth to the sun, on the occasion of the transit of Venus across our star."

As you would expect Guillaume Le Gentil has planned his journey to the tiniest detail. Nothing will stop him from getting to exactly where he needs to be to fulfil his mission. Unfortunately, fate has other ideas and so he ends up on an adventure that he could never have imagined. He builds friendships, has experiences that bring him joy, hardship, utter despair and so much more. All of this is made more interesting by the fact that Le Gentil really existed!

This is a dual timeline story. The other timeline of this story is set in 2012 and features a real estate agent by the name of Xavier. He is a divorced father who only gets limited time with his son. One day, he is called to an apartment that he recently sold. The new owner has found a big chest in a cupboard and they want it gone. Inside the chest is an old telescope. When he sets up the telescope in his window, his attention is caught by a woman in a nearby apartment who appears to have a zebra in her house, and he can't stop thinking about her and wondering who she is.

Whilst the telescope is the obvious connection between these two stories, there is a much nicer connection which really only unveils itself right at the end in the loveliest way. There is at least one  weird aspect of the story which feels a bit out of place at the time, but the author brings it all together masterfully!

I have read several Antoine Laurain novels over the last year, and they all are somewhat quirky, including in the way that people meet, and this is no exception. One of the things that I loved about this book is it almost felt like two separate books and yet, it never felt disjointed. The Le Gentil sections are an adventure where there is peril, mishaps and more, and yet the modern part is much more a meet-cute, modern story.

One of the reasons why I found the section about the transit of Venus so interesting is that it connects to Australian history. Captain Cook was in Tahiti for the transit that occurred in 1769, and from there he continued to the east coast of the land that we now call Australia. I had therefore heard about the transit, but I loved learning more through the pages of this book!

I still have a few more of Laurain's books to read. The big question is do a binge read all of them or try to space them out a bit. I suspect I don't need to spell this out but I really, really enjoyed this book, and recommend it highly

I am sharing this review with my fellow participants in Paris in July hosted by Emma at Words and Peace Blog,  with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge which I host and the Books in Translation challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader


  1. So glad you enjoyed it!
    I really loved it a lot as well. If you look at Le Gentil's life on wikipedia, you have the confirmation that it was really rotten.
    Oh cool connection with Australia!
    Now the good news is that Laurain has another one available in English now: French Windows, very good too, though not historical novel

    1. Yes, I already have French Windows downloaded ready to read.

  2. I say you should binge read them! I have enjoyed all of Antoine Laurain's novels thus far.

  3. I was able to obtain this book and The Red Notebook on Libby. Thanks very much for your suggestion

    1. I hope you enjoy those two books Mel U

  4. Thank you for that review of my book. The author