Theater of the Stars: A Novel of Physics and Memory

Overview

ucienne Kundera, an astrophysicist, has uncovered a black hole as mysterious as the secrets in her life. Lucienne's mother, Hlne, is a scientist as well, who was captured during World War II. She eventually escaped and disappeared, reappearing years later in New Mexico with Lucienne. Hlne claims to have no recollection of these past events, but when she and Lucienne visit Paris, the city of Hlne's youth, Hlne is overcome by memories and secrets, and attempts suicide. Lucienne becomes dangerously obsessed with ...
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Overview

ucienne Kundera, an astrophysicist, has uncovered a black hole as mysterious as the secrets in her life. Lucienne's mother, Hlne, is a scientist as well, who was captured during World War II. She eventually escaped and disappeared, reappearing years later in New Mexico with Lucienne. Hlne claims to have no recollection of these past events, but when she and Lucienne visit Paris, the city of Hlne's youth, Hlne is overcome by memories and secrets, and attempts suicide. Lucienne becomes dangerously obsessed with uncovering her mother's past, while at the same time attempting to solve a celestial mystery so dark and dense that its nature cannot be revealed. Theater of the Stars is a finely crafted novel sure to establish Kelby as a storyteller of unique sensitivity and wisdom.
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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
Spellbinding . . . ingenious . . . As psychologically loaded as it is suspenseful . . . penentrating . . . searing.
The Washington Post
Theater of the Stars is neither a mystery nor a romance, but it is both mysterious and romantic. It's a novel about secrets -- secret actions and the secret emotions that provoke them -- with the lethal secrets of nuclear research at its center. — Elizabeth Roca
From The Critics
"Kelby's radioactive spider web of a novel is as psychologically loaded as it is suspenseful, as penetrating in its condemnation of war as in its searing insights into twisted love and fractured families." (Booklist, starred review)
Kirkus Reviews
Second-novelist Kelby (In the Company of Angels, 2001) offers an intricate story of a young woman's attempt to unravel the mysteries of her mother's (and her own) past. Lucienne Kundera grew up in a laboratory in New Mexico and became an astrophysicist. Her mother Hélène was a French scientist who had worked with Madame Curie's son-in-law, so Lucienne was doing nothing more than going into the family business. Now well into middle age, Lucienne teaches at a small college outside Boston and has made a good name for herself in the field, and she has just been awarded a large grant for her research into black holes. But her private life is a mess. Her marriage of 16 years (to another scientist) collapsed under the strain of the workaholic Lucienne's career, and she now finds herself (in her 50s) wondering just who she is. Part of the problem is that she never knew her father-or even who he was: Her mother fled Paris in 1940 and turned up in New Mexico three years later with the newborn Lucienne. What happened in between? Lucienne never has had the opportunity to find out, until she goes many years later to a conference in Paris and brings her mother along (for her first visit since WWII). Hélène is overwhelmed by the rush of memories the city enkindles in her, so much so that she tries to kill herself. At the hospital, Lucienne meets Dr. Assam, a kindly physician assigned to her mother's case who turns out to have more than a professional connection to Hélène. Slowly, Lucienne manages to collect the fragments of a life that wound its way through the fire of occupied France to the heat of Los Alamos and on to the murk of various mental institutions before it split apart like an atom. Animprobable tale on the face of it, but thoroughly likable nevertheless, with a light touch and a rich collection of vivid (sometimes horribly so) characters. Agent: Lisa Bankoff/ICM
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786868582
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 7/16/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 983,729
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.00 (d)

Reading Group Guide

1. How does work drive both the daughter’s and the mother’s relationship to each other? To the world?

2. What is the relationship of the "M-Theory" to Helene’s discovery?

3. What are the implications of Helen’s discovery?

4. Create a sequel.

5. What are the conflicting issues that members of The Manhattan Project seemed to face?

6. The author tells two stories at once––although both are set in times of war. Why?

7. What are the parallels between WWII and 9-11?

8. What role do men play in the book?

9. What struggles do women, including Marie Curie, face in science?

10. What statement do you believe the author is trying to make about peace?
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2003

    Well-researched, beautifully written, disquieting

    This is a beautifully and economically written, minutely-researched, thoroughly engaging, disquieting novel that illustrates how human intentions and motivations become nearly irrelevant in the march of both public and personal history. Set in present-day Paris, it flashes back into the strange, nerdish world of nuclear research that led, ultimately, to the bombing of Hiroshima. It stretches into astrology, dabbles in human treachery and touches upon our human eagerness to judge others by culture and creed. It picks through memory, showing the reader a reality that the characters themselves can never fully see even as they live it. All these big themes in fewer than 300 pages, in which a woman searches for the truth about her unknown father as her mother lies dying. I ordered this book because I loved 'In the Company of Angels'--so much that I've sent it out to just about everybody I know. This novel is quite different in form and content from its predecessor, which relied heavily on magical realism, but it is no less masterful. But in both books, Kelby's ability to put life into perspective through her writing--the talent to show the proverbial 'universe in a drop of water'--is phenomenal. 'Theater of the Stars' had me turning pages and staying up late; I was far from disappointed in the ending, but I was definitely disappointed that it had to end so soon. I seldom read a book twice, but I've already started on my second time through. There's so much here.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2003

    What is love? What is war?

    I found an uncorrected proof of this book at a Starbucks and could not believe my luck. It was amazing. Heartfelt and smart. I couldn't put it down. It's more than a mystery, or science fiction, or romance. It's something that's difficult to put your finger on. It entertains and makes you think. In the end, I walked away wondering about every star I see in the sky. What a delight.

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