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Burning Bright: A Novel by Tracy Chevalier
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Burning Bright: A Novel (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Tracy Chevalier

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Member:shesinplainview
Title:Burning Bright: A Novel
Authors:Tracy Chevalier
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Rating:****
Tags:Historical Fiction

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Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier (2007)

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English (64)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (69)
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After the death of their son Tommy, the Kellaways need a change of pace so they pack up all their things and move away from their tiny English countryside town of Piddletrenthide to the hustling, bustling streets of 18th century London. The family moves into an apartment next door to the artist and poet William Blake and struggle to find customers for their wares: chairs made by father and son, buttons made by mother and daughter. The son Jem soon befriends a fiery London girl named Maggie, who takes him and his sister Maisie around town and helps them adjust to city life. As the French Revolution shakes France to pieces, its shockwaves can be felt across the Channel, upending the lives of the Kellaways and their new neighbors.

I’ve read several of Chevalier’s other books, and enjoyed most of them, but Burning Bright really flamed out. Like many of her other works, it focuses on a particular artist and attempts to bring his world to life. Here, it’s meant to be the poet and printmaker William Blake. Unfortunately, the artist makes few appearances, and when he does show up it is only to recite his poetry and ask vague philosophical questions that often go right over the heads of Jem, Maisie and Maggie. I can’t say that I knew Blake any more than I had before I read the book except that his marriage to his wife appears to have been a true partnership, for she assists him with his printmaking and tolerates his eccentricities with great patience.

But if Burning Bright fails to bring Mr. Blake to life, it successfully conjures up the sights and sounds of Georgian London as the Kellaways explore the city from one end to the other, contrasting the crowded streets and noisy crowds with their quiet, idyllic life back in Piddletrenthide. There’s a certain focus on the ugliness of London – the poxy whores, the grubby taverns, and the crummy factory work Maggie’s father forces her to take on – but the liveliness and wonder with which the Kellaways confront their new world makes it all seem devastatingly real.

However, the dazzling descriptions of London life can’t make up for the fact that there just isn’t much of a story. People come and go but no strong narrative binds everyone together. At the end, the Kellaways leave and head back to the country, and there’s an impression that their sojourn in the city had little impact on their lives, leading the reader to question why the author bothered to tell their story in the first place. ( )
  makaiju | Jun 23, 2014 |
London 1792. The Kellaways move from familiar 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.

Against the backdrop of a city jittery over the increasingly bloody French Revolution, a surprising bond forms between Jem, the youngest Kellaway boy, and streetwise Londoner Maggie Butterfield. Their friendship takes a dramatic turn when they become entangled in the life of their neighbour, the printer, poet and radical, William Blake. He is a guiding spirit as Jem and Maggie navigate the unpredictable, exhilarating passage from innocence to experience. Their journey inspires one of Blake's most entrancing works.

My Thoughts:

After first reading ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’ many moons ago I tough I would never read a TC book again as I thought it was awful. I am glad that I have changed my mind and now have read all but one of her books.

This book I quite enjoyed. What TC does do is give a good sense of place and I really felt I was following the characters along the streets of Georgian London. I also enjoyed the snippets into Astley’s circus. This also interested me as my married name is Astley and my husbands family were gypsies and travellers.

My favourite character had to be Maisie, ‘Miss Piddle’. I loved her to bits and wanted to take her home myself and tell her not to go after the awful John Astley. She I think is the main reason I liked this book.

There is also William Blake who lives next to the Kellaways. I didn’t really know much about Blake and to be honest came away from the book still not knowing much about him. For me the author could have concentrated more on the circus and just have Mr Blake as the nice man next door.

Overall I liked the book very much and will always look out for more new books by Tracy Chevalier. ( )
  tina1969 | Apr 13, 2014 |
Wonderful! As good as Girl with a Pearl Earring. Highly recommended. ( )
  Ginerbia | Feb 14, 2014 |
I've read two of Tracy Chevalier's books (Girl with a Pearl Earring and Lady and the Unicorn) and enjoyed them, so was looking forward to this one. It did not disappoint! Fascinating story weaving William Blake, the poet and printer with Astley's Circus of late 18th century London, along with fears concerning possible repercussions of the French Revolution in England. All brilliantly told from the viewpoint of a young boy who has just moved to London with his family from a country village. ( )
  FancyHorse | Jul 21, 2013 |
I reallu love tracy Chevalier. This is not one of my favorites but it still was pretty good. It follows a country family who makes chairs and the adjustments they have to make when they move to London. One of their neighbors is William Blake. Novel touches on the revolution in France and how London viewed it but did not nearly go deep enought into this aspect. I liked the characters jem and his sister Maisie and Maggie the nighbor and lively one .i did enjoy the Ansty connection of the circus and what that was like. ( )
  Smits | Jun 16, 2013 |
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For my parents
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There was something humiliating about waiting in a cart on a busy London street with all your possessions stacked around you, on show to the curious public.
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Book description
London i 1792. En familie flytter fra det landlige Dorset til London, hvor faderen får arbejde som møbelsnedker. Deres nabo er den berømte digter, maler og mystiker William Blake, og bekendtskabet med ham får afgørende indflydelse på den yngste søn og hans veninde
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 052594978X, Hardcover)

The wonderful new novel from the much loved author of 'Girl With a Pearl Earring' and 'Falling Angels'. Flames and funerals, circus feats and seduction, neighbours and nakedness: Tracy Chevalier's new novel 'Burning Bright' sparkles with drama. London 1792. The Kellaways move from familiar 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. Against the backdrop of a city jittery over the increasingly bloody French Revolution, a surprising bond forms between Jem, the youngest Kellaway boy, and streetwise Londoner Maggie Butterfield. Their friendship takes a dramatic turn when they become entangled in the life of their neighbour, the printer, poet and radical, William Blake. He is a guiding spirit as Jem and Maggie navigate the unpredictable, exhilarating passage from innocence to experience. Their journey inspires one of Blake's most entrancing works. Georgian London is recreated as vividly in Burning Bright as 17th-century Delft was in Tracy Chevalier's bestselling masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:19 -0400)

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Presents a sweeping and romantic tale set against the historical backdrop of William Blake's London.

(summary from another edition)

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