Pippa Goldschmidt’s debut novel The Falling Sky draws heavily on her career as a professional astronomer and, like much of her writing, sits at the intersection between science and literature.
The Falling Sky is a black tragicomedy that begins in Edinburgh and makes its way to a Chilean mountain top observatory. Jeanette is a researcher who has followed her life-plan so far, moving away from a tragedy in her youth and beginning her ascent to the top of her scientific field. However, feeling alienated by the internal conflict in the institution she works for, she travels to Chile for the clear skies, sharp stars and absence of distractions. But what she discovers there complicates everything further, and not just her personal and professional relationships, but her ideas about nature of the universe.
Goldschmidt does a formidable job with her subject matter: this is a book that doesn’t water down its astronomy but still succeeds in making it accessible for a reader with no previous knowledge of the subject. Jeanette’s boundless enthusiasm for her scientific research and for the simple wonder in things vastly bigger than herself is infectious, and the way in which her enthusiasm is dampened by office politics and institutional bureaucracy, not to mention the demands of her tricky friendship group, will chime with the experiences of any reader who has wanted to give themselves fully to great work but found themselves stymied by ‘real life’.
The Falling Sky also has plenty for fans of Edinburgh, with Jeanette talking about the city’s ‘uneven pavements and grubby shop fronts’, trekking through Marchmont and drinking in an unspecified ‘dive’ on Rose Street.
’s debut novel was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize and she was the recipient of the Scottish Book Trust/Creative Scotland New Writers Award in 2012. She was also a writer-in-residence at the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum based at the University of Edinburgh. The Falling Sky was in the running for our 2013 First Book Award.