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The Book of Fires

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  1,409 ratings  ·  270 reviews
It is 1752, and Agnes Trussel is assistant to one John Blacklock, maker of fireworks. Quick-tempered, secretive and handsome, Blacklock, a widower, has taken the 17 year-old country girl into his household on her arrival in the city. However, she is without plans or friends, and burdened with dangerous secrets.
Paperback, 403 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by HarperPress (first published January 1st 2009)
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Amy
SUMMARY: It’s 1752 and in a small town in England a young Agnes Trussel finds herself in a very delicate situation. She is pregnant and unwed and completely unsure of what to do. All she can think of to do is leave and one morning she sneaks out of her childhood home and runs away to London.

18th century London is a dirty, over-populated and scary place to be, especially for a country girl and Agnes is overwhelmed and fearful that she won’t be able to find a job or lodging. A help wanted sign dr
...more
Elaine
When will I get over my weakness for historical fiction? This had the slenderest of plots, choppy and often nonsensical, blended into endless digressions on natural landscapes and the science of fireworks. The historical atmosphere was completely hackneyed (and has been written a thousand times of every era from Shakespeare's to WWII) -- a crowded filthy criminal starving London peopled by sly servants and good hearted whores -- the kind of thing we call Dickensian for a reason.. it's already be ...more
Barb
Look Out World Here Comes Jane Borodale

I am a hard reader to please. It's rare that I give four or five stars to a book, it's even more rare that I find something that I love as much as this first novel by Jane Borodale.

'The Book of Fires' is a novel that evokes vivid images of seventeenth century England. The book opens in graphic detail with the Trussel family's endeavor to butcher the spring pig.

Agnes Trussel, seventeen, unwed and pregnant, runs away from home to spare her family the shame
...more
Melissa Conway
It’s rare for me to read without eating sunflower seeds in the shell at the same time. I can only eat so many before my lips begin to wither from the salt, and in this way, I limit the amount of time I spend reading. Once I’ve had my fill of seeds, I invariably set the book aside.

Not so with The Book of Fires. I can’t remember the last time an author held me so enthralled that I continued on long after the seeds were gone. I began the book on Saturday, picked it back up on Sunday and found mysel
...more
Barbara Bryant
I actually gave this 4 stars (I'm stingy about 5), and found it one of the most pleasurable reads I've had in years. I made it a staff pick at my library. It concerns a young village girl in the 1700's who, finding herself in a family way and fearing where it will lead her, and having committed a sort of crime, flees to London to try to save herself. I simply ate it up--I liked the writing, and found it flowed beautifully. I love the descriptions of life at that time: the moral narrowness of the ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
I am thrifty with my absolutes. However, I must make an exception and celebrate this debut novel by proclaiming this as the most visually stunning, sublime prose I have encountered in any book this year. Every sentence is an ineffable bliss to read. I urge you to experience it the way I did, without too much information beforehand. Be dazzled and bedazzled by this symphony of the senses; the words transcend the story. Rockets will fire from all your synapses. Dinner may burn.

The story's premise,
...more
Dani (Pen to Paper)
Jane Borodale is definitely an author to be looking out for in the future. The Book of Fires is her debut novel, which follows the story of Agnes Trussel, a Seventeen-year-old girl from rural Sussex, who at the beginning of the novel finds herself in the family way and leaves her home for London to spare her family the shame of her condition.
Upon moving to London she finds herself suddenly in the employment of John Blackstock, a pioneering pyrotechnist, making and experimenting with fireworks.

I
...more
Rita	 Marie
This historical novel, set in 1750's London, has two stories. One traces the efforts of young Agnes Trussel to conceal her unwanted pregnancy while struggling with feelings of guilt over her theft of gold coins from a dead neighbor's house. A naïve country girl, Agnes uses the money to fund her escape to London, so that she will not bring shame upon her family.

Of far more interest is the story of Robert Blacklock, the maker of fireworks whom Agnes encounters in London and who hires her as an ap
...more
Laura
I enjoyed this story of Agnes Trussel, a young girl who finds herself unmarried and pregnant in 18th century England. Unable to face the shame this would bring to her family, she flees to London and ends up apprentice to the fireworks maker John Blacklock, a peculiar and somber man who is passionate about his craft. The relationship which develops between them is an interesting one, and the art of creating fireworks provides a unique backdrop. Agnes struggles to hide her secret as it becomes mor ...more
Wordsmith
This was one of the few books in my recent reading history where I can actually say the story had more appeal for me than the craftsmanship of the writing. The education I received regarding the early manufacture of fireworks was interesting to say the least. I do believe Jane Borodale has many books ahead of her. All in all a great debut.
Reader, I Read It
Every reader will have experienced those precious but sad moments the last page can bring when the time has come to leave the characters and their world behind you. This is one of those books.

The story follows 17 year old Agnes who after discovering she is pregnant grasps at a quite unusual opportunity to travel to London in order to prevent the trouble and disgrace she would bring to her poor farming family. Arriving in the bustling streets of the City, Agnes stumbles across a position as the
...more
Heather
This was one of those books that I randomly picked off the shelf at my library. I can read almost any book - sci-fi, paranormal, young adult...etc - as long as there is a decent love story somewhere in the narrative. I thought this historical fiction would give me a love story worth reading but instead of calling this a love story I'd say it was an "almost love story" and maybe that is why I liked it so much. It was not what I expected, but because of the way the story ends it leaves me thinkin ...more
Shawn
I borrowed this book from my daughter---who reads about 10 times as many books as I have time to...and was really pleasantly surprised by this one! This is a very different subject to read about and it captured my attention immediately. The story is about a girl----who is poor and living in the early 19th century----as she gets taken advantage of by a young man, and finds herself in the family way. This prompts her to run away from her family and try to find some way to make a living in London. ...more
Marie
In The Book of Fires, young Agnes learns that she is pregnant and runs off to London leaving her life and struggling family behind. Alone and scared, she ends up on the doorstep of Mr. Blacklock, a pyrotechnist, a fireworks maker. Soon she is working as his assistant, but continues to hide her condition. When a young man delivers some supplies to the workshop, Agnes sees a way to get out of her predicament and hatches a plan. Little does she know the Blacklock has been busy making his own plans. ...more
Erin
The beauty of the language, the thorough description of the grim atmosphere of England in the mid-1700s, and the satisfying way the story unfolds are what deserve this four-star rating. Although the book drags along for a while, the language is so beautiful that the initial slow pace is an opportunity for savoring the reading experience. The limitations of this story are the result of its being told from the first-person, present-tense perspective of 17-year-old Agnes. Ordinarily, I would not mi ...more
Hannah
I ordered this book on Amazon last Thursday allowing it to arrive this morning at 11 o'clock, after 3 solid hours of reading I have successfully finished the book.
It is an beautiful story about a girl who was raped by an angry horrid man in her village, it is made known that it was also not the first time he had abused her. A elderly neighbour passes away and is found by Agnes, she takes money from the old woman, She then flees to London, horrified that she is a fallen woman at the tender age of
...more
Stephanie D.
"...[T:]hey do not see fire for what it is."

"What is it really sir?" I ask.

"Many things to many people," he replies. "To us, to pyrotechny, it provides exhiliration, a soaring pleasure, during a display. And pain, debt, guilt, grief, all these troubles, we have momentary respite from. What a gift that is...It transports the senses far above the moment, above happiness itself; it provides a pure kind of change or space inside us. It quenches a thirst for rapture that we might not even know we had
...more
Yukari
I love historic novels, especially British ones. And "the Book of Fires" is a well written one. Atmospheric and captivating. However, I can't help feeling something is amiss.

This is a story of a naive country girl's survival. 17 year old Agnes Trussel becomes pregnant, and in order to avoid a terrible marriage and family disgrace, she flees to London. She meets a kind young girl Lettice on the way to London. Agnes almost joins Lettice, whom Agnes doesn't know that time is a prostitute. By chance
...more
Jane
The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale
Posted on May 17, 2010
by FleurFisher| 11 Comments | Edit

I first spotted Jane Borodale’s The Book of Fires last year. I was interested, but not quite interested enough to rush out and order a copy. Well, there are a lot of good historical novels out there.

But then something changed. The Book of Fires was one of three books shortlisted for this year’s Orange Award for New Writers. That suggested that it might be something rather special, and so the order went in
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Matti
The lead character, Agnes, in whose voice the story is told, is developed wonderfully, in very low-key statements showing her strengths and weaknesses through her actions and choices. She is a totally charming figure. The other characters are much sketchier, but feel real enough.

The book claims to be about fire and fireworks, and the author claims, in an interview included in the book, that it also is about the justice system in England in the mid-eighteenth century. These stories are there, of
...more
Linda C
I really, really, really wanted to like this book, and I tried really, really hard, but, at the end of the day, it was about as interesting as watching paint dry. While the author evoked the feeling of 18th century England extremely well, the characters were flat and undeveloped. Perhaps Ms. Borodale has a future career writing travel guides or college text books, because that is what I felt like I was reading. It is hard to imagine 300 pages being that difficult to read, but it was difficult to ...more
Chaitra
This was my question as soon as I read a good chunk of the book: why is she still living? Honestly, the level of stupidity on display by the main character of this book has to be read to be believed. There's no way an innocent such as she would've lived, let alone thrived, in 18th century England. Not unless she was privileged or dropped on the head when she was a baby, which apparently she's not.

So. Agnes is an idiot who doesn't know how to say no. Result: she's pregnant. Of course she is. Aft
...more
P.d.r. Lindsay
Now here’s a historical novel which breaks the rules, at least the rules we writers of historical novels are taught by agents and publishers. Although set in 1752 it is written in the present tense and in the First Person Point of View. It is an example of how a fascinating story, well told, using the history, not as mere setting, but as an integral part of the plot, will get published. It was a pleasure to read this novels, it wasn’t cowboys and indians in Rome or cops and robbers in Mediaeval ...more
faeriemyst
The Book of Fires was not an easy book for me to get through. Not that it's a bad book, far from it, but because of its slow and steady pace I had to stop quite often to get my bearings. This is a very well-written book but it is also a very detailed one as well, sometimes to the detriment of the book; I felt like I was wading through facts and the story fell to a standstill at times. The lectures on fireworks and how they were made in the 18th century could have been fascinating, but they bored ...more
Helen
Agnes Trussel is a seventeen year old girl whose life is thrown into turmoil when she discovers she is pregnant and runs away to London to start a new life. In London she is lucky enough to find employment as an assistant to the firework maker John Blacklock but as she desperately tries to hide her pregnancy from everyone around her, she starts to realise that she's not the only one with secrets...

When I first heard about this book last year I was immediately interested in reading it but eventua
...more
Paul
A pleasant and fairly easygoing historical novel set in eighteenth London (briefly in Sussex). Agnes Trusel runs away from her Sussex home; she is young and pregnant and knows her family cannot cope with another mouth to feed. The novel is set during the period when enclosure was taking place and rural life was increasingly difficult. Agnes goes to London and becomes assistant to John Blacklock, who makes fireworks. She picks up the skill very quickly and becomes indispensible. However the other ...more
Jennifer
Interesting book that takes place in London in the 1750's. It centers around a pregnant girl who goes to work for a man who is an early maker of fireworks (pyrotechics). While the book got off to a slow start, it turned out to be an enjoyable read. I would like to give it 3 1/2 stars, but I couldn't quite bring myself to give it 4.

The author does a very good job in her portrayal of mid-eighteenth century London. I liked the character very much, though her extreme naivete pushed my ability to sus
...more
Linda
Though I loved the firework details and also loved the good sense of time and place, I did not love the hurried feeling I got at the end. It was as if the author didn't really know how to end her book, and maybe her publisher was pressuring her to finish, so she logjammed through it. Fictional books make us promises at the beginning, and an author should make sure he/she fulfills those promises by the end. The main character painstakingly learns a craft but drops it with no looking back. I felt ...more
Heather
Once again I feel the need for half stars! I gave it 4 but would add another half if I could! I pulled it from the library's new arrival shelf and was delighted from the start. The pyrotechnic subject matter is different and fun, the characters have enough depth and personality to be believable and the ending has some delightful twists- it all works. Not every strand of storyline is neatly tied up by the end; I would love to have discovered a bit more about Joe Thomazin but maybe author, Jane Bo ...more
The Twins
Wasn't sure about the book to start off with but it definitely grew on me. I love the unusual subject of fireworks. Jane Borodale has a wonderful way of describing scenes and events that they are coming to life, I could feel the baby kicking, could smell all these foul smells in the London streets, smell the odeurs of the other people and the various chemical smells around the house and the workshop. I could feel Agnes tired legs at the end of the day and how her fingertips hurt. I couldn't have ...more
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Jane Borodale has a postgraduate degree in site-specific sculpture from Wimbledon School of Art. She has written and exhibited work for a variety of sites, including the Foundling Museum in London and the Wordsworth Trust, Cumbria. She was recently Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Sussex, and lives in the Westcountry with her husband, poet Sean Borodale, ...more
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