“Beautifully written and researched.”Super K wrote this review Tuesday, September 28, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“so glad I am finished with this book. Although parts of it were interesting, I would not have read it had it not been for my bookclub. It was LIsa's pick.
The letters his daughter wrote to him were fascinating, but the rest of the book was not too interesting...the church had a huge role in everyday life in the 1600s in Italy...HUGE”
“about religious dogmatism gone awry”Luis P wrote this review Friday, September 3, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I really enjoyed reading this book. ”Karen R wrote this review Wednesday, September 1, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Well documented narrative essay about the daily life and family relations of Galileo Galilei through a series of letters written by one of his daughters: Maria Celeste, a nun. Provides a humanistic vantage point of a larger than life scientific figure.”Adanid P wrote this review Sunday, August 29, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I enjoy learning some background on historical figures that I have previously known only as names in history books. ”robin c wrote this review Thursday, August 19, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I gave up on this book as well. Just couldn't get into it.”Janice I wrote this review Thursday, August 19, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Very informative and interesting. At times, however, it read more like a history text than a memoir. ”Lee M wrote this review Monday, August 16, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Pam Quigg's pic”Alisa R wrote this review Tuesday, August 3, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Vonnie said: 4 stars
Many have heard of the famous Galileo Galilei and his many experiments and theories. But many have not heard that he had a daughter and that Galileo and his daughter were extremely close. This biographical book recounts Galileo's life and that of his daughter Sister Maria Celeste. Galileo had his kids out of wedlock and believed that his two daughters, Virginia and Livia, were not be able to marry due to their bastardy status. So Galileo sends his daughters into a convent to be raised as nuns. His eldest daughter, Virginia aka Sister Maria Celeste, became his confidante and his main support when he got into trouble with the church due to his ideologies. Galileo and Sister Maria Celeste shared many letters to each other and 124 of these letters survived proving their strong father-daughter relationship. I really enjoyed this book because throughout the ages we don't hear much about Galileo out of his professional career. I was extremely surprised to find out that his closest friend was a woman and that was his daughter. Though there were many parts in the book that I found tedious, I did find the majority of it enthralling by all the new insights that I learned of the man and his daughter.
ghost of a rose said: 5 stars
This book is actually a biography of Galileo, but his daughter does figure prominently in it as well. It is amazing how much is known and can be documented about someone who lived almost 400 years ago! Galileo's daughter was a cloistered nun who inherited his energy and brilliant mind. The two had a close relationship, and the 124 letters to Galileo from his daughter that still survive are an important source of information about him. It was an interesting and creative idea to write a biography of Galileo from his daughter's perspective.
Although most of the book is about Galileo, it was the chapters about his daughter that interested me even more. When it focuses on Galileo, the book reads like a textbook - facts, dates, etc. But in writing about Celeste, Sobel speaks of everyday life with a richness of detail and description that allows to reader to imagine being there.
I wish there was a way that we could know more about the feelings of historical people as well as the bare facts. Both Galileo and his daughter had sad lives. Galileo and the mother of his three children never married, and he took the children to live with him after their early childhood years. It must have been traumatic for them, and their illegitimacy affected the two girls all of their lives. It seems that Galileo did not want to marry because their mother was below his social class and because it was traditional for a scholar and teacher to remain single. But since the girls were born out of wedlock, they were unmarriageable and were forced to take nuns' vows, and from the ages of 12 and 13, to spend their entire lives behind the walls of a convent.
Sister Maria Celeste (no doubt she chose the name Celeste as part of her religious name because of her father's interest in the heavens) seems to have accepted the situation cheerfully, but it is a shame that such a vibrant woman never had the choice of a full life. Celese's sister was not able to embrace the convent lifestyle and although she did not rebel against her lot, she remained melancholy and somewhat disturbed throughout her life. There is never any hint in either Galileo's or S. M. Celeste's letters that Galileo ever felt any remorse that his own actions caused his daughters' lives to be so constricted.
I had not known that Galileo had lived through a 3-year epidemic of the bubonic plague. Galileo and all three of his children were able to avoid infection, but Galileo's brother died of it. His widowed wife and four of his children moved in with Galileo, and within a few months all five were dead of the plague. The convent escaped the plague entirely. No doubt the lack of contact with the outside world contributed to that. And Sobel believes plausibly that rats were not attracted to the convent because of the cleanliness and lack of food there - the sisters religiously held to their vows of poverty and lived in a semi-starved state at all times.
We all know how Galileo was sentenced to house arrest for the last decade of his life because his scientific theories and discoveries conflicted with the traditionally-held beliefs of the Catholic Church. But what I didn't know is that he was a devout Catholic who faithfully obeyed the rules of the Church in spite of what he knew to be true. His accusation, trial, and sentencing was an egregious act of injustice.
Sister Maria Celeste died of illness at the age of 33 or 34, undoubtedly due in part to a weakened condition caused by chronic malnutrition. Her devotion to her father never faltered, and her emotional and material support of him were an invaluable lifeline during his trial and most of his imprisionment. It is astonishing what she was able to accomplish while being permanently confined to the convent. Galileo himself lived to be over 75. Celeste's sister lived on in their convent, surviving Celeste by 17 years and their father by 10.
Galileo's Daughter is incredibly well-researched and well-documented. It includes numerous black-and-white illustrations of people and events from contemporary paintings, even one that is thought to be of S.M Celeste. We are able to see what Galileo looked like at different ages throughout his life. There are reproductions of some of his drawings, letters, and inventions. Translations of Celeste's letters are given in full, as are translated excerpts from many of Galileo's letters and books.
At the back of the book are four appendices: a timeline of major events in Galileo's life and events in science that relate to his life and work; a table of Florentine weights, measures, and currency; a bibliography; and an index. The timeline was especially helpful - the text of the book did not specify the Celeste's age when she died (just that she died at a young age) or the length of Galileo's confinement, but I was able to deduce them from the timeline.
Cora R said: 4 stars
Gailileo's Daughter is a biography of Galileo that is enriched by transcripts of actual letters he received from his eldest daughter, a nun living in a convent. While the biographical information is interesting and thorough, the letters make Galileo come alive as a real person through his daughters eyes. Reading her words, the legend of Galileo is transformed into a real man who loved his daughter immensely. He was generous, kind, and always willing to do what he could to help others. He was a passionate man who cared deeply about science and discovery. I learned a lot about Gailileo and his discoveries by reading this book. I also learned a lot about the power of the Catholic Church, especially in Italy, in the 17th century. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in learning more about Galileo and this time in history.”