Sunday, 24 August 2008

“Burning Bright” Tracy Chevalier

“London 1792.  The Kellaways move from rural Dorset to the tumult of a cramped, unforgiving city.  They are leaving behind a terrible loss, a blow that only a completely new life may soften.”

Like Chevalier's other historical novels, this is a good quick summer read.  I found the characters a bit one dimensional and didn't really warm to any of them until the end of the book and Maisie Kellaway's return to Dorset.  The principle characters are Jem Kellaway and Maggie Butterfield and the story follows their journey from innocence to experience – a theme pursued by William Blake.

The story is set in Lambeth with the newly arrived Kellaway family, who had moved there from Dorset following a family tragedy  Their neighbour is the radical William Blake, which gives Chevalier opportunity to quote from his work and hence the title of the book “Burning Bright”.  

To emphasise the origins of the Kellaways, Chevalier uses colloquialisms in their dialogue – which I found annoying – “thank'ee for the beer” and “z'long” all the way through the book. This wasn't necessary and anyone reading the book could quite easily imagine the accents without it being written down!

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