Burning Bright
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Burning Bright

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3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  7,702 ratings  ·  990 reviews
From the bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring comes a stirring eighteenth-century coming-of- age tale

Tracy Chevalier, author of the international bestseller Girl With a Pearl Earring, returns with another brilliantly rendered historical tale set in the waning days of eighteenth-century London. Poet, artist, and printer William Blake works in obscurity as Englan...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 26th 2008 by Plume (first published March 20th 2007)
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Shan O
I have long enjoyed Tracy Chevalier's historical novels, particularly "Girl With a Pearl Earring," which imagines the daily home life and creative process of 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, as viewed from the vantage point of a teenage, Protestant maid. This more recent book,"Burning Bright," is set in 18th century Lambeth, a suburb of London, and imagines the public life and creative mind of painter and poet William Blake, seen through the eyes of two adolescents. While both books...more
Sammy
UGH! I'm thinking I may have rated this book to high, but then again it wasn't that bad. This rating/grade is pretty much reflective of it's mediocrity. It wasn't good, it wasn't bad. Beautiful language, fun descriptions, interesting situations. No plot, random and half-developed characters. Those were the main pros and cons for this book that are popping up right now.

This book wasn't long but for some reason it felt like it took forever to get through and I think that was the main reason I didn...more
Malcolm
London at the time of the French revolution takes center stage in this beautifully written novel featuring location and themes over plot. When craftsman Thomas Kellaway moves his wife Anne and teen-aged children Jem and Masie from the Piddle Valley in Dorset to London in March of 1792, they are all but overwhelmed by the contrasting grandeur and ugliness of the big city. Thomas hopes he can better support the family making chairs for the circus and Anne hopes distance will heal her tortured mind...more
Jane
Jun 07, 2008 Jane rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Lucy
This is the third Chavalier book I have read the other two being The Virgin Blue and Girl with a Pearl Earring. As with the other two I found this an enjoyable and easy read. As well as having a story line Chavalier does a heck of a lot of research on the period and actual historic facts. Burning Bright is set in London in the late 1700's and follows a family's move there from the county of Dorset, from country to city is a dramatic change for all the family members and Chavalier manages to capt...more
Chip
It can't be easy to be Tracy Chevalier - everyone expects a home run when her next book comes up, and ten billion critics all judge whether or not her effort succeeded. Few of her critics are willing to research the setting, the subject, or the historical context before espousing their opinions. Not so for Ms. Chevalier: the time and care she took in her research shows throughout this book and is invisible to most of the readers. (What I really want to say is 'what a bunch of whiners!' Here is a...more
Joyce McCombs
As with Chevalier's "Girl with Pearl Earring".. .this book is a YOU ARE THERE experience. I couldn't put it down and devoured it in a few hours one recent afternoon. Set in 18th century London, with William Blake as a main character, the story revolves around the children who live next door to him and how they experience growing up in a turbulent political time, as well as understanding their roles in society and as young adolescents. Chevalier makes it seem perfectly possible that William Blake...more
Allie Whiteley
Disappointing. I felt that she should have picked either Philip Astley or William Blake as her focus - attempting them both diluted the impact somewhat. She could, for example, have really dealt with the Dissenters issue in more depth had she just written about William Blake. I think there would have been more dramatic tension that way and a far more entertaining novel. As it was, despite the flowing prose, I found this an effort to read. Nowhere near as good as "Girl with a Pearl Earring", in m...more
Gerry
Tracy Chevalier presents us with a real and vivid kaleidoscope of London in the late 18th century, complete with a visit to William Blake's work rooms. And it all makes for an interesting tale.

Jem Kellaway and his family move from Dorsetshire to London at the invitation of Philip Aspley of the circus fame as his father Thomas was a carpenter and Aspley wants to employ him.

The family then find themselves living next door to Blake and Jem, his sister and friend Maggie become friendly with the auth...more
Ian Mapp
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anna
Burning Bright is a story about the middle ground between opposites: city/country, boy/girl, experienced/innocent. Unlike Chevalier other works this novel did not as clearly develop the primary historical character (William Blake) or the link between the action of the story the creation of his work (Songs of Experience, Songs of Innocence). The story was unfocused. There were too many characters and too many subplots. Chevalier's other works are far superior.
Erin
I picked this up on the clearance table at one of my favorite places in the world- Barnes and Noble. It's so remarkable there. Quiet, cool, anonymous. Classical music playing softly overhead. You aren't expected to talk to anyone, just head to the books. You could actually hide there and no one could find you for hours, well minutes, but still... Heaven.
Leigh-ann
I'm not sure what to say about this book... I can hardly begin to think about how to summarize it. If I was in a classroom I could say that it's about "opposites" and the teacher would applaud me and we'd all be assigned an essay on the topic of, "The Role of Opposites in 'Burning Bright'".

I like historical fiction, but this is the second book I've read by Chevalier and I haven't been too thrilled by either of them. A book called "Burning Bright" should have some spark to it, yet both the plot...more
Kira
The utter lack of resolution, both in terms of character growth and in terms of historical detail, was extremely disappointing. I can't say I expected anything better from the snailian pace; nor was I ready to forgive the author's annoying tendency to build one character to an emotional pitch of trauma, then leave off before that character can react and talk about another one who is even then idling languidly. Like many of you, I was unimpressed with the way William Blake remained only a minor c...more
Martine Peacock
My claim to fame is that I once shared tea and cake with Tracy Chevalier in a park by Highgate Cemetery, so I want to love this lady. And I have loved her books... until now. Started this last night. I'm a fifth of the way thru and bugger all has happened. The characters are all hideously cliched. The beauty of her writing has gone. I wondered if maybe it was me, but having read some of the other reviews, I find I'm not alone, and that I can safely despatch this book to the trash bin without mis...more
Cheryl in CC NV
I'm honestly not a fan of historical fiction, but I will read anything this woman writes. I don't know exactly why. I don't think it's the romance - even though some of these do seem, at times, a not-too-big step up from 'bodice rippers.' I think this may have been my favorite because of the children, and because now I feel I understand Blake better (I've always loved Tyger but am not sure why). Comments welcome!
Charly
Mar 30, 2013 Charly rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Anyone. Especially Chevalier and Dickens fans
Another wonderful visit by Chevalier to earlier European times. This was a visit to the world of William Blake in 1792 London. A wonderful tale of unique characters woven around Blake's circumstances makes this another work by her that is well worth the read.

Dickens fans will especially enjoy her depiction of London and the surrounding areas.
Sandy
Chevalier wonderfully captures life in London in the late 18th century in this story of a family's move from the Dorsetshire countryside to the city and their son's interaction with William Blake. Much of the plot is devoted to the growing friendship between London newcomer Jem, and city-kid Maggie. Maggie's terrible "secret" about cut-throat lane isn't much of a surprise by the time she tells Jem the truth about it. And the relationship between the two of them and William Blake (Jem's next door...more
travelerblue
Innocence and experience - opposites, or are we all in the middle of the river...
Susan
You know how sometimes you go to a museum and you see a painting by a not-so-famous artist, and you think, "Oh that's pretty," and then you see one by a master, and you're not sure if it's pretty but you know it's glorious? Well, Burning Bright is sitting next to Daniel Defoe on my bookshelf, and it's a similar situation. The cover is pretty, Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience are accessible but thought provoking, the characters are in general decent and developed, and the writing seems b...more
bookczuk
William Blake rocks. That's my overall impression of this book. Entering into the world of London at that time, LAmbeth, and the circus was interesting, but overall, the star of the book for me was William Blake. I know very little of his early adult life, and in fact, wasn't even sure when the character was first introduced, that this was the Blake, despite having to memorize The Tyger for Miss Keith's English class, and the dead give-away of the title of the book.

After reading I went straight...more
Sherry
Tracy Chevalier gives us an image of William Blake as he might have been viewed by his neighbors and friends in London of 1792. Three young people discover Blake's London through their encounter of him as their neighbor and his poems, London, and his collection: Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. A brother and sister, Jem and Maizie Kelleway come with their parents to London. They are invited by the great Phillip Atley, circus manager, because their father is a furniture maker. They liv...more
Paula
I love Tracy Chevalier. I can't even imagine the time and effort it takes to research the area's and people of history that she writes about. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and Chevaliers books always take us right inside another time and place, feeling the emotions, hearing the sounds and smelling the air.

Burning Bright is set in the early 1790's of London, where Thomas Kellaway and has recently moved his family to try to outrun the memories of the recent loss of one of their sons. Th...more
Kathryn
I enjoyed reading this book, as I have enjoyed all of this author’s books that I have read. It is an added plus that poet William Blake is a major character in this book, as I love his poetry (even if I have trouble at times understanding it).

The book is set almost entirely in 1792 London. A son of the Kellaway family in rural Dorsetshire died by falling out of a pear tree, and in attempt to ease his wife’s grief at the loss, chairmaker Thomas Kellaway has removed his wife, his teenage daughter,...more
R.
I read this story because I really liked The Girl with a Peal Earing, also by the same author. I liked the writing but it took me a long time to get into the story and feel connected with the characters. Infact I put this book down for a bit and read a simpler book my son had just finished. I am glad I stuck with it because I enjoyed the 2nd half of the story more than the first. The characters become more developed and the story becomes much more interesting. The writing is what really makes th...more
Michael
Great atmospherics in this tale about a family that moves from the county to the slums of London in 1792. As in the two other books of hers I read ("Girl with a Pearl Earring" and "Remarkable Creatures"), Chevalier is marvelous in her ability to immerse the reader in another place and time. Her cast of characters this time focuses on three young teens, siblings Jem and Maisey Kellaway, who are children of a furniture maker, and Maggie, a street-wise kid who befriends them, the daughter of a con...more
Nancy McKibben
Aug 13, 2013 Nancy McKibben rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: fans of Chevalier
Burning Bright
By Tracy Chevalier

As an admirer of the poet William Blake, I was curious to see how Chevalier might approach his odd life. Her choice was to make him the eccentric neighbor to a Dorsetshire family that has moved to London at the behest of circus entrepreneur Philip Astley, an actual historical figure. Although the viewpoint shifts, the story is told primarily through the eyes of young Jem Kelloway, the son of the Dorsetshire chairmaker, and Maggie Butterfield, the street smart youn...more
Rachel Hawes
Now this is more like the Blake I love!

What Tracy Chevalier did for 17th Century Delft in Girl with the Pearl Earring and 15th Century Brussels in The Lady and the Unicorn, she has done for Georgian London; especially a row of houses in Lambeth known as Hercules Buildings.

William Blake, poet, engraver, genius, madman, lived at number 13 Hercules Buildings during the 1790s. In Chevelier’s story a family of chairmakers from Dorsetshire, the Kellaways, move to number 12 after a family tragedy and a...more
Wendy
Perhaps a more fitting title would have been Burned Out. Any flame or heat that the title implies is sadly lacking from this novel and I say sadly because I’ve been a fan of Tracy Chevalier for a while and have read all of her other books.

I found that the inclusion of William Blake as a character in this story was mostly irrelevant as the story really wasn’t about him. I think he could have been cut from the novel and replaced with a fictional character with virtually no change in the storyline...more
Marie
I was impressed by the range of historical detail in this book-- from button-making to child labor to the circus to the character of various London neighborhoods. And of course William Blake, whose "Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience" are a central theme. I agree with others that Chevalier's themes can be heavy-handed, and it would have been nice to get more than a glimpse of Blake. But I found the fictional story engaging enough that having Blake in a supporting role was acceptable......more
Natalie
I have a love hate relationship w historical fiction.

I think i like mine w a firm twist of the speculative that was lacking here -

when I can't have that, I like it straight up - Morland Dynasty style - Harrod-eagles treatment of the same time period covered here was more to my taste.

This book reminded me a bit of the Dickens Faire - the research, the costumes, and scenery, even the music were well done but awareness of the whole affair being constructed as an entertainment precluded complete i...more
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Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier 3 15 Aug 04, 2013 02:08PM  
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1973
Born:
19 October 1962 in Washington, DC. Youngest of 3 children. Father was a photographer for The Washington Post.

Childhood:
Nerdy. Spent a lot of time lying on my bed reading. Favorite authors back then: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander. Book I would have taken to a desert island: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

Educa...more
More about Tracy Chevalier...
Girl With a Pearl Earring The Lady and the Unicorn Remarkable Creatures The Virgin Blue Falling Angels

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