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2.93  ·  Rating details ·  521 ratings  ·  86 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
Hardcover, 454 pages
Published May 8th 2007 by Harper (first published 2006)
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2.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  521 ratings  ·  86 reviews

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Sarah Mac
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
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
looking for something else a few days ago, found this book which i bought years ago and then completely forgot about and with an 'I spent money on, see if I get any value" more than anything else feeling, I took a look and just got hooked on it

not an easy read as it uses 19th century English (see contemporary novels, Dickens etc), moves between multiple pov's and locations, different social classes and occupations, uses various forms of narration, from journal entries to third person pov, so Ke
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
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction-uk
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
Very, very, very, very, very wordy. Too many words. The author, well I am guessing that he loves words, and I understand that love of words, but the author's overuse of words in this novel made it difficult to read, I was getting lost in the all the words, couldn't keep the thread of the story.
But the wordiness wasn't the only problem. He was using a blind stitch for his thread. It was story after story seemingly unconnected, new characters often introduced in whole subplots, the whole mass of t
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
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Stacy Maxwell
Nov 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
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.
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, bookstore-finds
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
Feb 26, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jan 07, 2012 added it
Shelves: read-by-liza
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,
Jul 14, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Jan 19, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: historicals, mystery
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
Conor O'mahony
Jul 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
I once sat on a coach for 24 hours. I would compare that level of tedium to reading this book. The concept of the story was fine. The characters however never came to life, the flow of the story too fragmented to persevere with. I kept going thinking it may improve or tie in nicely at the end or even I may have a moment of getting 'it''. Like the coach ride I did get to the destination but would never recommend it to anyone.
Professor Childermass
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
Oct 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
had me gripped throughout - would have given it five stars but the ending disappointed me - more of a whimper than a bang. Excellent writing, you are really drawn into this murky Victorian world and the characters in it. If you enjoy Victorian style Gothic tales this one will satisfy and I think it's a read for male and female alike.
Kailey (BooksforMKs)
Mar 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
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.
Jul 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
Oh, please, no, don't make me try to read this again...
Rachel Jones
Aug 20, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
I agree with many of the reviews: plodding language, taking forever to move the story along, myriads of characters! I usually love Victorian set novels. I really enjoyed Rebecca and The Woman In White which we’re nothing like this. I’m about half way through actually but will stick with it.
Joy Murphy
May 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book never took hold and became painful to read, because it’s boring. Avoid.
Heather Mccalman
Sep 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
Slow, tedious, definitely not a mystery. I kept reading hoping that something would happen....
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Reading this was more work than pleasure for the first three parts, but I rather enjoyed Parts 4 & 5.
May 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cannonball-read
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
Jennifer (JC-S)
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
‘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
Catherine Siemann
Dec 24, 2016 rated it liked it
I was puzzled, at the beginning, by this book's low ratings. It's one of those big books that you can fully inhabit, and the author clearly knows the period, and its literature, very well. But in the end, while I did enjoy the book, I didn't enjoy it as much as I expected. There are characters and plotlines which are deeply engaging, and those which are less so. The books contains multitudes, which I found myself skimming some of, while wishing others lasted longer.
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 21, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Dec 21, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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David John Taylor (born 1960) is a 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 married
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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.” 4 likes
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