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BAA Journal Book Reviews

Total Addiction: The life of an eclipse chaser

Springer, 2012
ISBN 978-3642304804
Pp 193, £16.54 (pbk)

Journal issue: 2014 December
Pages: 359–359

Dr Kate Russo is a clinical psychologist by training and profession and an ‘eclipse chaser’ by emotional inclination. This book is not a scientific treatise on eclipses but rather the author’s, and others’, reactions to going to and watching those few minutes of totality.

Aware from an early age of the beauty of a total eclipse, her actual first eclipse experience was in France in 1999. She really did see it, unlike a lot of us in Cornwall at the time. The genesis of the book arises from a life-threatening illness to her partner, which brought home the fact that life is precious and memories should be sought and then cherished.

The book includes a bibliography and a short index. There are colour pictures and diagrams throughout. Some of the pictures are quite dark but this does not detract from the narrative.

The clue, which is not always the case, is in the title of the book as to what is found within. Many readers of this review will have been to see a total eclipse and will completely empathise with the contents. The author manages to convey the utter glory of being in the path of totality for both herself and other eclipse chasers. I have no doubt that there will be some readers of this review who could actually be mentioned in this book.

There are accurate descriptions of how and why eclipses occur and the dates of future eclipses, but the primary appeal of the book is the fact that it is written by someone who understands the human psyche, being a professional psychologist, and is also a fervent eclipse chaser.

I am happy to recommend the book to members of the BAA. I have seen several total eclipses and understand completely why the author feels the way she does. If you, as I do, find people who do not seem to understand when you try to explain, I suggest you buy this and read passages from it. Dava Sobel, of Longitude fame to name one of her books, describes her first eclipse experience in this book, that of July 1991, the ‘eclipse of the century’. The final paragraph of her piece reads:

‘As for me, I have come away with a new insight. I’d always envisioned the total solar eclipse as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’re not quite complete until you have seen one, but after you do, you move on to other things... Now, I know the truth: the first eclipse merely whets the appetite for the next.’