A nineteenth-century story of female empowerment before its time, based on the life of Caroline Herschel, sister of the great composer and astronomer William Herschel and an astronomer in her own right.
In her impressionistic portrait, Brown moves some events in time, combines others and scants certain family members. Those compressions and alterations help smooth what might have been an unwieldy mass of material into a strong arc.
The novel depicts an increasingly independent woman who also struggles with the loneliness and the physical and emotional toll of the work. With a flourish of literary kindness, Brown gives Lina a satisfying (fictional) love relationship, which she accounts for in her detailed author's comments at the end of the book.