Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Burning Bright

Set in London during the French Revolution, this novel chronicles the burgeoning friendship of two near-adolescents. Jem Kellaway, son of a country chair-maker, and confirmed London urchin Maggie Butterfield strike up a close friendship, bordering on first romance. The two are united in a fascination with their unique and libertine neighbor, poet and artist William Blake. Blake shares some of his poetry and engravings with the children, which keeps them hungering for more. As the children navigate the streets of London, they discover that the revolution growing on the other side of the Channel will affect their lives in ways they never imagined. Chevalier does a fairly good job recreating the London of the 1790s. That said, the addition of William Blake as neighbor to the main characters is the only thing that makes this book anything out of the ordinary. I was never convinced that Blake contributed to the story in any meaningful way. Each time he appeared it seemed like a drive-by William Blake sighting. This was my first Chevalier book, and I think it must be one of her weaker works. I've heard wonderful things about her books, so I'll be reading some of the others, hoping for something better.

Tracy Chevalier, Burning Bright (Plume, 2008) ISBN: 0452289076


Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I have heard good things about her latest, Remarkable Creatures. That's one I want to read.

Philip O'Brien said...

I read "Girl With a Pearl Earring" and "The Lady and the Unicorn", which were both good. Both were about the lives of people of that era, and both used an art form as the armature about which the story was built.