Bookish · Reviews

Review: The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick + The Wigtown Book Festival.

wigtowncomet

Why did I read this book?

I picked it up recently in my local bookstore and was really intrigued, but actually put it back down again. When I heard that the author was going to the Wigtown Book Festival, my interest was piqued again and I went back and bought it. I really enjoy reading books and then hearing the author’s take on their work – I think that’s what drew me back to this book; knowing that I was going to hear more about the process from the author.

Wigtown is a small town in the West of Scotland, actually known as Scotland’s Book Town. It holds many, many independent and second hand bookstores and has been somewhere I venture often since moving down to this part of the country. It has such a unique feel to the place, I love going there. This is the first year I have been to its famous festival, so here are some of my thoughts about it:

  • It’s home-y. You feel like you’ve walked into a small community who hold books in high esteem, just as you do.
  • The people are really friendly. Being a small, locally run festival means that they need people to come back year after year to keep it functioning. They know this, and they cater to this – everyone I met was lovely and friendly and excited about what was happening. Needless to say, I’ll be returning for this atmosphere alone.
  • They hold interesting events. They might not be holding events for the most famous authors in the world, but they are carefully selected as to what the people in this region of Scotland enjoy. They feature many local authors, which is always a nice touch.
  • It was a lovely way to experience what the west of Scotland has to offer. As well as books, it features lots of local businesses, so you really got a feel of the whole place. If you are planning on visiting Scotland in September, take a trip to Wigtown, because you won’t regret it.

I only went to the one event – to hear Helen Sedgwick talk about her debut novel The Comet Seekers. Originally a physicist, she mixes science, magic and a unique otherworldly-ness into her first book, making it a captivating and interesting read. She spoke of the writing process: she originally wrote this book as many small 100 word sets, exploring the worlds of a variety of characters, across different times in history, in a very small amount of words. From this, she shaped it into the novel I held in my hands last month. She spoke of reading this novel in two mindsets – believing in ghosts or believing in madness, and she revealed hints of her writing process. She also – and this was my favourite part – read parts of her book from memory. FROM MEMORY. Whole chunks of lovely prose – it was amazing.

Going to see her talk about her novel made me enjoy this book more. It opened up the world she had created and allowed me to understand what I don’t think I’d fully understood over my first reading. So, without further ado, here’s my short and sweet review of this debut novel.

Spoiler Free Review

Title: The Comet Seekers

Author: Helen Sedgwick

Published: Harvell Secker, 2016

Pages: 290

Some links: Goodreads and Amazon

***

The Comet Seekers tells the story of two people, Francoise and Roisin, whose paths have crossed unexpectedly on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica. Unknown to them, their paths have crossed many times, sometimes going back generations. We learn of their lives, the ties that bind them back home and their contrasting sense of adventure. Will they stay in the familiar or go in search of their dreams. 

I really enjoyed this novel. It was claimed to be a cross between The Time Traveller’s Wife and One Day, two of my favourite novels, so I was hooked by it straight away. It focuses on the two main characters, but gives a lot of backstory into their family lives in order to get across the main theme of the book – should you stay where you are or leave the people you love behind? Roisin and Francoise are torn by this decision through the novel.

I think I liked the novel so much because I knew of that struggle myself. When leaving for university, I knew I wanted to reach out to the unknown but I didn’t want to leave my family behind. This is something that Roisin in particular feels. I could also appreciate how close Francoise’s mother felt towards the other members of her family – both alive and dead.

Which brings me to the next theme of the novel: ghosts. I was sceptical at first but found these characters to be some of the most engaging and interesting of all. The way this book is written, you can choose to believe or no believe in their existence. Myself, I believed in them and enjoyed their presence throughout the read.

Finally, there is quite a lot of science in this book. Roisin is an astrophysicist and, as the title suggests, comets feature greatly in this read. I was interested in the comets at first but, as the book continued, I grew more interested in the relationships of the characters than the significance of the comets and science behind them. But that’s just me.

Whilst I enjoyed a lot of this book and many of the relationships felt real to me, there were some relationships which I felt were a little too lengthy. Also, at some parts the science was a little too much for me; for some readers, though, this would be fine.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

A really good read and something different, which I’d definitely recommend to others. Only 4 stars though, because I just wasn’t that invested in some parts of the plot and the characters.

Either way, whether you enjoy Scottish literature or not, Wigtown and it’s festival is a good place for book lovers to try. It’s cute, quaint and friendly, and the perfect place to spend the day with an author, a book and a cup of tea.

Happy reading, all!

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