Published by Dutton on 20 March 2007
Genres: Adolescence, Adult, Fiction, Historical
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Place(s) Traveled to: London, England (1792)
First Line: There was something humiliating about waiting in a cart on a busy London street with all your possessions stacked around you, on show to the curious public.
I just recently finished reading Burning Bright, the latest novel by Tracy Chevalier. This is her mostly recent novel and to be honest the only reason that I read it is because it was chosen for my next book club. I have read other books by Chevalier in the past and have have mixed reactions on them. So, I wasn’t super enthused to read this book…and while it didn’t suck. I wasn’t in love with it either.
This novel primarily takes place in London, England in the year 1792, focusing around 3 teenagers: Jem, Maggie and Jem’s sister Maisie. Jem & Maisie have recently moved from to quiet life in the country to the bustling city of London with their parents and are learning how to adjust. One their first day in the city they meet Maggie, a street wise girl who likes to be the one who knows everything and tend to delight in the mistakes that Jem and his sister make while they are learning to adapt to city life. Thrown into this group in none other than William Blake. Who has got to be one of the most aloof, vaguely written characters that I have ever met in a book.
In some ways Mr Blake is always there for the teenagers idolize him and his beliefs. Yet, even when he is in the presence of the teens he seems to be off somewhere else. He speaks in metaphors and doesn’t seem to be bothered by anything. Even when there is a mob outside his door he just stands there limply and only reacts after Maisie starts to recite one of his poems…..or songs as they are referred to in the book. Even then his reaction isn’t quite what the reader expects. There are times in which I think that Blake’s character is more of an after thought. Someone famous that the author tosses into the mix in an attempt at trying to accomplish……something. What exactly I am not sure. The characters of Jem, Maggie and Maisie are all pretty underdeveloped as well. There seems to be no real purpose to any of them and I found it hard to care what happened to them.
I initially struggled to get through this book. Its not a hard read I just found it to be boring and lacking in plot. I was often more drawn to the various descriptions more then what was going on with the main characters. Where the major events of their lives seem to be swept aside and barely discussed while pages and pages are spent on them watching a circus procession going by. I finally had to give myself a shake and force myself to read the novel any time I had a chance because I just wanted it done.
In Short: This novel flickers more then it burns.