The transit of Venus, since it is the name of the phenomenon in question in the novel, consists of the
passage of Venus in front of the sun. It was, in the time of Guillaume le Gentil, the only way to measure the real distance from Earth to the sun, so it was very important!
The phenomenon itself is very beautiful: a black pearl will cross the solar disk for several hours. A rare event only taking place twice, eight years apart, and then not until 120 years later. Suffice to say that if you miss the first two, there’s no chance of seeing the third.
The modern-day character of Xavier, intrigued by the telescope’s provenance, reads two enormous tomes of which he has obtained a digital copies: the memoirs of Guillaume le Gentil.
It so happened that at one point in writing this novel, I wanted to have in hand those very two original editions, just for the pleasure of leafing through them. Maybe to establish some kind of connection with him. A mystical thing.
Less mystically, I had chosen my moment badly, it was lockdown and so all the libraries that could have held these very rare books were closed. I looked on the internet to see if there was a private library, and came across a very niche library: a private library, specialising in massage books.
They had these two rare and very expensive volumes, because the astronomer is the first European to mention the art of massage in his writings upon his return from India.
I called, I asked if it was possible to come and consult these books. A very friendly guy replied that he was the massage specialist and, yes, I could visit. There was no address on the site. I asked where the library was.
The two books of the astronomer had been, for years, just one block from my house!
And this is why I included a section on massage in the book.
I tried to write a very dynamic book that would be a travel companion, and allow readers to escape with my novels. Daily life is often boring and repetitive, but that of the astronomer was not, neither is the contemporary romance of Xavier and Alice.
I wish you a beautiful journey with this novel, beautiful encounters with characters and amazing natural
phenomena, such as the phosphorescent sea or the meteor showers. And finding love in the end. If it’s already done, tell your love that you love them. Love is the most important thing in life. Even when you’re not an astronomer…
One last detail: while researching online I read that the astronomer, on his return, discovered that his wife had remarried. It’s wrong. Nonsense. He was in fact unmarried and had no children. This is also why he was able to be absent from home for so long.
He will find love when he returns and I restore his honour and the truth, which is very poignant. But to know how he got there, you must read the book now. You will learn a lot about astronomy in a light-hearted way while having fun and following the two present-day characters hoping that they fall in love.
An Astronomer in Love by Antoine Laurain is out now (£16.99, Gallic Books). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.
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