Nancy McKibben's Reviews > Burning Bright

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
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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 youngster who introduces Jem to the wonders of London.

What I chiefly enjoyed about the book is Chevalier’s evocation of old London, a type of writing at which she excels. The reader learns about London pubs and circuses, cathedrals and printing shops, making mustard in London factories and making buttons in Dorset, and the details are alarming in some cases and enchanting in others, but always credible and well-researched.

The plot is far from compelling and serves mostly as a vehicle to showcase Blake through his interactions with Maggie and Jem. Blake recites his own poetry and plies them with philosophical questions. Still, taken as a slice of everyday life in Georgian England, the book works very well indeed, and the reader can embrace it for its richness of character and setting rather than for its paucity of story.
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Reading Progress

August 10, 2013 – Started Reading
August 11, 2013 – Finished Reading
August 13, 2013 – Shelved
August 13, 2013 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
August 13, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed

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