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Kept

2.93 of 5 stars 2.93  ·  rating details  ·  376 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Madness, greed, love, obsession, Machiavellian plotting, and a great train robbery, in a captivating Victorian mystery about the extreme and curious things men do to get—and keep—what they want

August 1863. Henry Ireland, a failed landowner, dies unexpectedly in a riding accident, leaving a highly strung young widow. Not far away lives Ireland's friend James Dixey, a celebr
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Hardcover, 454 pages
Published May 8th 2007 by Harper (first published 2006)
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21st out of 42 books — 42 voters
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Community Reviews

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Sarah
This was better than I was expecting, but I wouldn't recommend it to general audiences. The style is hardcore pastiche -- not just a literary novel set in the Victorian period (e.g., something by Sarah Waters), but a deliberate & very thorough mock-up of the Dickens, Gaskell, & Thackery schools of fiction. (The author makes no attempt to hide his influences; indeed, he lists them by name in the afterward.) Accordingly, Kept moves at a slow pace & takes its own sweet time with each ch ...more
Caitlin
look, being 'literary' doesn't excuse poor plotting or not having a goddamn ending.

Utterly unsatisfying and confusing.

Look, I read Victorian novels for fun. A book like this should have been my sort of thing. I just don't think Taylor did the Victoriana well. It was far too knowing at times, and far too earnest and others - and honestly, Taylor isn't good enough at writing characters that sound different to manage a book of this scope. It's too easy to get confused between the characters as they
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Linda
I was very disappointed in this book. Yes, it was Victorian times, but it was NOT a mystery. Far from it. We had almost all the facts before we started. The only real "mysteries" were who killed Henry Ireland and James Dixey. And who murdered them wasn't really essential to the book. The FACT that Henry Ireland died was, but not who killed him.

After her husband's death, Mrs. Ireland, who has suffered a mental breakdown, disappears. Where she is is quickly revealed to the reader. Why she is there
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Stacy Maxwell
This book took me about a month to read, it was absolutely tortureous for me to read. I am not sure why i didn't quit half way through. I found it to really not get to the point of the story until nearly the end and when it finally came down to tying all the characters together, it came across to me as a complete after thought.
Nancy Oakes
As I was reading through this, the thought struck me that I was really enjoying it because the author tried very hard to present his story in the manner of an actual novel written during the Victorian period. I love Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, etc and it occurred to me that the reason I love reading these guys is that the stories each writes is not just one single story, but a host of plots, subplots, character portraits and loose threads that come to be tied together at the end. I realized ...more
Laura Morrigan
Readers used to a more modern style of writing may find this book a little challenging, but it is well worth persevering!

Kept has a wide range of characters, the connections between which will not be immediately seen, and often uses different forms of writing, such as the epistolatory form of letters which was highly popular during the Victorian Era. It also uses a lot of Victorian turn of phrase, and the style of the omniscient narrator, but sometimes addressing the author personally, breaking
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Karyl
I knew going into this book that it would be very Dickensian, with many characters and sub-plots and intertwining stories. I loved the idea, but I don't feel that Taylor executed it well. I found myself confused by all of the characters, since they blended together so well, without much in the way of individual differentiation, and I wasn't fond of the differing methods of story-telling Taylor employed. Sometimes the novel was in the first person, sometimes in the third person. Sometimes letters ...more
Nicole
The mystery in this novel remained obscure - at least to me - until perhaps three-quarters of the way through. Taylor's method of narration, which I found fascinating and well-executed, means that the reader is left unraveling even the parts of the story that aren't mysterious per se. For me, this was most of the fun of the story. Also, Taylor pulls off the style of the Victorian novel extremely well - the tone is right, the subplots are right, the huge cast of characters is right, and the way e ...more
Jenni
The book is, principally, well-written and the author has put lots of effort into creating a "real" Victorian atmosphere. However, there were too many uninteresting characters and the story sort of went nowhere, and the various plot-lines were connected only vaguely. I'm quite sure that was the author's intention, but while I appreciated the excellent writing, the book didn't live up to my expectations. And though it is not the author's fault, it irritated me to notice that it somehow seems the ...more
Nick
Boy, did it take me a while to get through this one! I think that's what the author was going for. He clearly wanted this to be a Dickensian novel, complete with the cast of thousands, flowery language, and intertwining plots. The only problem is that he isn't Dickens and we're not living in the 19th century reading this serially. The story is interesting enough to make you want to keep reading, and his command of the Victorian language and landscape is masterful. But the characters aren't as en ...more
Professor Childermass
Oh man, this book made me so mad! I hate to be so inarticulate in describing why I disliked it so much - I think I'm just angry that the back-cover description had little or nothing to do with the actual story. I was irritated that it dragged on at a snail's pace with no reward for the reader. I give two stars for the (for the most part) engaging discriptions of Victorian London. If you do decide to dive in and read it, keep on the look for heavy leanings on the works of Charles Dickens.
Lesley
This book seemed like it would be the most awesome. I expected a kind of revisionist Victorian novel, but came out mostly confused by the story which is told through letters, newspaper publications, a first-person narrator and others weaving seemingly unconnected stories together. The description on the back made me think there would be some explosive mystery ending, but really it all just kind of came together. Good parts, but did not live up to my expectations.
Rachel Jones
very densely plotted - many characters and storylines to keep track of. unfortunately, i felt like my favorite storyline (about the 'kept' woman) was sort of dropped and left barely resolved.
Zoella
Oh, please, no, don't make me try to read this again...
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘I will happily declare that there is no sight so harmonious to the eye or suggestive to the spirit as Highland scenery.’

In 1863, Henry Ireland, a young landowner is thrown from his horse and dies. His widow Isabel, already grieving for the loss of their child is removed from society into the care of a guardian, James Dixey who has a passion for collecting. Mr Pardew, a debt collector manages to entangle both a destitute grocer and a prominent lawyer in his shady schemes. Mr Pardew has great pla
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Stuart
I enjoyed this novel, though it took a little work to get into; it was quite dense, written in a very Victorian Style, like Wilkie Collins . There were lots of different stories going on, sometimes only tangentially interlinked. And even short notes purportedly by George Eliot and Charles dickens. There were Two primary stories. The first focused on the widow Mrs Ireland, whose husband died in mysterious circumstances. The second focused on the enigmatic Mr Pardew, who is planning an audacious r ...more
Kathy
Maybe I should call this "tried to read." The author made great strides in imitating Victorian writing, but what might have worked in 1860 didn't do much for me reading in 2013. The text relies heavily on archaic speech patterns and words that haven't seen the light of day in many decades. I've made two attempts at this book, and both times haven't made it much past quarter of the book.

Another thing that annoyed me was the jump in styles of story telling -- first person omniscient narrator, jou
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Kate
Back in high school creative writing class, I had an assignment to write a soap opera script, which would then be read in front of the class. It’s not often that you get assigned to write something so ridiculous, so I went all out. In the span of 10 pages, there was amnesia caused by a tragic ladder accident, rival doctors, scheming exes, secret twins, buried treasure, familial revelations, covert relationships, and dramatic comas. It was a masterpiece. Of course, soap opera conventions are in a ...more
Pariskarol
I liked it as an interesting piece of art, a collage of different writings --letters, narratives, news article, gossip columns, confessions, and legal documents, plus varying points of view including of those going mad or financially disintegrating or in life-or-death crisis-- that together tell a story.

But it took me ages to read, it wasn't at all relaxing, and it began to feel like a chore near the end.

I feel like this author could have used an editor who would provide a voice for readers' n
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Suzy
I guess I enjoyed reading this book, but I came close to giving it only two stars--out of revenge. Because in the end I was kind of disappointed. I was originally drawn to it because it was recently written by a Victorian-novel scholar, in the Victorian style. This he pulls off very well, I think, and that is what is enjoyable about reading it (if you, like I, are a fan of Dickens, et al.). What I didn't like is that I kept hoping for the plot mysteries to finally be all tidied up, but that didn ...more
Linda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrea
Kept was a trial to get through. I must have started this book at least 6 months ago and finally finished yesterday. It is about many twisted plot lines that at the end all converge on 3 main characters: a gentleman, his ward, and a debt-collector. I think the author delighted in figuring out all of the interconnections that could be introduced. For instance, there was a chapter about some guy in the wilderness in Canada where it was never revealed until many chapters later who the heck this per ...more
Joseph
"Kept" was an interesting novel. Perhaps, the most intricate plot-line of any book I have ever read. Taylor, it seems, delights in the introduction of numerous connections between the huge cast of characters and the introduction of what would initially seem random characters who until later appear to be utterly meaningless. The mystery however eventually rests on the shoulders of three characters and it is from here that novel makes for easier reading. "Kept" is definately not for a light read a ...more
Helen
I can't believe so many reviewers couldn't give this novel more than 1 or 2 stars. For me, it's an absolutely perfect book and one of my all time favourites. I've read probably 80 plus novels per year for 5 decades and I found this was something really special. Interesting characters, good period setting, wicked humour and irresistable story lines.

I also liked the fact that it didn't seem to need any of the essential ingredients of so much modern literature; great beauties, strong grey-eyed men,
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Nathan
Several narratives weave their way around a central mystery in Victorian England. The language here is a loving homage to Wilkie Collins and Dickens and co., but it is built around a narrative that is perhaps a shade too opaque for its purpose. The author certainly thinks himself very clever and rates his writing highly, to the extent that he includes a chapter that is unrelated to anything else and which is itself summarised by another character later in 3 lines. That chapter is certainly well ...more
Kailey
Bored out of my skull. I couldn't finish it. Hated the writing style. Boring characters, and no plot to speak of b/c it was soooooo slow.
Pat Thelander
Checked out from library before reading any reviews! Starting it today and will see how it goes.
Erin
Jul 28, 2014 Erin added it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I should've paid attention to the "Victorian mystery" subtitle...I'm not one for reading Victorian novelists (at least, i haven't had the patience for them thus far) and have never read Wilkie Collins or Charles Dickens. So to start a 500-page, intricately-written modern novel involving Victorian characters written in a Victorian style is just not something I'm ready to handle at the moment. I got through about 10 pages of it (I know...I give up too easily!) but they were a dense 10 pages! I'm p ...more
Thomas Walsh
Sep 22, 2014 Thomas Walsh marked it as a-lookedinto-decidedagainst-book
If you want to read a book as it was written in the late 19th century, look no further. This reads like Dickens or Gissing. The pace is slow, it unfurls slowly, the characters come and go, but, once you get the rhythm, and understand this novel's plot is not going to be resolved until the last pages (and it's resolved in beautiful language and perspective!), it gets easier to read. But, at first, you wonder exactly what's going on, and the author has no explanation (shrewd!) If you want to read ...more
Midnight Blue
Fantastic, intricate, well-written victorian mystery. 10 Stars!
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David John Taylor (born 1960) is a British critic, novelist and biographer. After attending school in Norwich, he read Modern History at St John's College, Oxford, and has received the 2003 Whitbread Biography Award for his life of George Orwell.
He lives in Norwich and contributes to The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, New Statesman and The Spectator among other publications.
He is
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“Spring had come finally and after much hesitation, to Lincoln's Inn Fields and there were daffodils out upon the green grass and gilly-flowers blooming in the window-boxes of the ground floor sets. This being Lincoln's Inn, where an air of general severity prevails, they did so with an unconscionable meekness, as if they feared that some legal eminence- Mr Crabbe perhaps- would descend in wrath from his chambers and present them with a writ for unlicensed blossoming or occupying too great a proportion of space.” 3 likes
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