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Burning Bright

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  13,155 ratings  ·  1,385 reviews
Burning Bright follows the Kellaway family as they leave behind tragedy in rural Dorset and come to late 18th-century London. As they move in next door to the radical painter/poet William Blake, and take up work for a near-by circus impresario, the youngest family member gets to know a girl his age. Embodying opposite characteristics — Maggie Butterfield is a dark-haired, ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 20th 2007 by Dutton
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Average rating 3.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,155 ratings  ·  1,385 reviews

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Shan O
Mar 18, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gritty, exciting, sometimes sad and often heartwarming take about three teenage children in late 18th century London. Jem Kellaway and his sister Maisie are new to London, having come with their parents from the Piddle Valley in Dorset shire, and are befriended by street wise, spunky and warmhearted London girl, Maggie Butterworth.
This is at the time of the French Revolution, and there is alarm, suspicion and tension in England as a result. Maggie and Jem become fast reins and become acquainte
Mar 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: c-the-okay
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
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have truly liked other books by Chevalier, so I found this one a bit disappointing. I never got involved in the characters or felt like I knew them or cared what happened to them. It was far too much of an outside-looking in story for me. It seemed false to weave Blake into this novel, as if she couldn't proceed without a historic figure and she had picked him out of a hat. ...more
Feb 08, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Allie Riley
Sep 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Gumble's Yard
Jan 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2012
Like most of Chevalier's books based around the back story to a work of art - in this case William Blake books: Songs Of Innocence And Of Experience, And Other Works (including "Tiger Tiger ...").

Harmless enough story and simple enough to read but very simplistic at times - the references to Blake's poems and clumsy and almost all the characters either thinly sketched or unconvincing (with their characters and motivations often clumsily set out in the text rather than described for the reader t
Jun 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
May 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
Tracy Chevalier's novel, abridged in 10 parts by Jane Greenwood, is set in London in 1792.

1/10. The Kellaway family, having arrived from Dorset to make a new life in Lambeth, find themselves living next door to the unconventional poet William Blake.

2/10. Jem and Maisie Kellaway and their new friend Maggie cross Westminster bridge to see the sights of London. They have two strange encounters with their new neighbour William Blake.

3/10. Jem and Maggie engineer a
Beth Bonini
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I've really enjoyed several of Chevalier's novels - especially The Girl with the Pearl Earring and Remarkable Creatures - but for some reason, and despite its wealth of historical detail, this one never really came to life for me. I plodded along with it for weeks, always waiting for it gain momentum, and it never did. I would rate it somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars; at best, I had a tepid sort of liking for it.

It promises revolution - the French Revolution is taking place in the background -
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 stars. This book overall and unfortunately, fell flat for me. It was just an okay read.

What was of interest and kept me reading, was that there was a circus element in the story and the family of which the book was about, got sucked into the magic and promise of the circus boss and the atmosphere. If it were not for the circus thread running throughout the entire book, I might not have forced myself to finish the book; I have a thing for the circus. Anything circus related and I’m in.

As it
Jan 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 10, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a good story, but didn't have the most captivating plot. It took a while to get into it and still I felt like I was waiting for more. The characters were good, if a little under-developed. I would have liked to know more about Mr. Blake and his "revolutionary" ties. I would also like a little more emotion from Jem and Maisie. This book was not as good as "Girl with a Pearl Earring", so I was a little disappointed. I was left thinking "that was it?" when I finished. It got better in the ...more
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The most prominent characters in this story are "Jem" -- a boy of maybe 16 -- and a girl of the same age by the name of Maggie. The story begins in a small village in 18th century England and very soon moves to London, where Jem's family moves to find work. Here, Jem meets Maggie, who shows him city ways but also comes to rely on his more stable and grounded personality. As I read this, I was appreciating Chevalier's research and thinking back to a couple of her other novels I've very much enjoy ...more
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I enjoyed this slice of late 1700s London life. This follows a few young adults through a year in London. We get a taste of the times, no major drama, just a good feel for life in that year. The catalyst for the book seems to be the poet William Blake whom we meet as well through his friendship with these kids.
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 aut
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
Jul 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Innocence and experience - opposites, or are we all in the middle of the river...
Ian Mapp
Nov 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 01, 2009 rated it liked it
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. ...more
I was disappointed with this, my second book by Chevalier. William Blake was a relatively minor character as was Astley & I found the story about Maggie and the Kellaways not particularly interesting.
This was an easy read but didn’t really give a feel for the place and time or much detail on Blake.
Having read several other of Tracy Chevalier’s novels and thoroughly enjoyed them, I was hoping that this would be my ch the same. Unfortunately, for me it wasn’t anywhere near as good as Girl With a Pearl Earring, or Falling Angels. It wasn’t terrible though. Chevalier writes beautifully, and has a wonderful way of describing the surroundings of the story, which really helps you to envisage yourself there. It just seemed to lack an actual plot.
The storyline focuses mainly on three teenage chil
Jul 11, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Dec 31, 2013 rated it liked it

I know I've use this word a lot in reference to this book. That's because positively and negatively it's about the best word I can give to this book. It wasn't bad. It wasn't enthralling. There wasn't an exciting edge of your seat plot, or even anything seriously curious. On the other hand I wasn't bored and I wanted to keep reading. Maybe in hopes that something really moving would happen. It did, slightly towards the end. To say too much in detail would be to give away the stor
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
Martine Peacock
Aug 09, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
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Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier 3 28 Aug 04, 2013 02:08PM  
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. 1900's girl in mustard factory Dad circus carpenter [s] 4 27 Jul 30, 2011 10:51AM  

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19 October 1962 in Washington, DC. Youngest of 3 children. Father was a photographer for The Washington Post.

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.


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