Monday, 10 October 2016

Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel


Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel
First published by Walker Books in 1999.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Shared by my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dave and I were both impressed with our first Dava Sobel read, Longitude, and Dave chose Galileo's Daughter for his Kindle on the strength of the former. As it turned out, he disliked Galileo's Daughter so much that he didn't finish it whereas I found the book interesting and enjoyed learning more not only about the life of the great scientist, but also of the (by modern standards) terribly restrictive life forced on to both his daughters.

Suor Maria Celeste, the religious name adopted by Galileo's eldest daughter at the age of thirteen when she and her eleven year old sister were shut away in the San Matteo convent, exchanged letters almost continuously with her father throughout her short life. Her letters have survived and Sobel includes several within her book in order to illustrate points in what is essentially a biography of Galileo. Through her writing and evidence left by Galileo himself in surviving letters to third parties, it appears that Suor Maria Celeste was educated and highly intelligent yet condemned to a poverty-stricken secluded existence while her younger brother was repeatedly given opportunities that he squandered. This double-standard was common practice in Italy at the time, but I couldn't help but wonder at the waste!

Sobel's writing is informative while still being entertaining and she manages to always avoid becoming dry in tone. The minutiae of daily life recounted in Suor Maria Celeste's letters is incredible to read and I was amazed at her frequent need to beg alms from her rich father and patrons in order to stave off near starvation for herself and the sisters in her convent. Also incredible was the paranoia of the Vatican and Popes in Rome regarding their fanatical condemnation of any thinking that did not agree with their narrow interpretation of Scripture. I saw modern reflections of this attitude in Under The Udala Trees. Galileo's Daughter is a thought-provoking book which certainly made me glad to be alive now rather than then, even though that was just four hundred years ago.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Dava Sobel / Biography and memoir / Books from America

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