On a grisly grey day, with the haar looming over Edinburgh, Helen Sedgwick brought a beam of light to the city during the launch of her debut novel, The Comet Seekers, at Waterstones on Princes Street. Presenting a novel that boasts romance, history and scientific accuracy (well, ghosts excluded), Sedgwick had us all enticed from the first page.
Combining two major passions for Sedgwick – physics and creative writing – the novel takes the reader across a time-span of around 1000 years. Tracking numerous ancestors of the main characters, Roísín and François, each chapter takes place in a different point in history, with each story connected by the appearance of one of the great comets.
Originally a short story conceived in 2011, The Comet Seekers is an extension of “flash-fictions” Sedgwick, each based on great comets orbiting our solar system. With now fully developed characters at her aid, Sedgwick has transformed these fragments of her imagination into a work that explores philosophical themes including coping, feeling the need to be free, and paradoxically the desire to belong.
The Comet Seekers is not only a novel enriched with 1000 years of historical wonders but one that includes female figures as illuminating as the fleeting comets in the sky. Ever conscious of the need for strong women in everyday life, these powerfully independent and self-assured females are welcomed with open arms by the reader.
Despite her scientific background, Sedgwick allows herself a fantastical element or two in her story. The ghosts of Roísín and François’s ancestors surge the past into the present, with some humorous and endearing results. What stands out in Sedgwick’s discussion of the novel is how enjoyable the writing process was, leading to the novel organically blossoming.
The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick (Penguin, 2016)
Photo credit: Soerfm