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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an unusual story, worth reading
This is the second of Tracy Chevalier's books I've read [the first being Falling Angels]. I deliberately did not search out any information or reviews about this book before or whilst I was reading it, as I wanted to form my own opinion.

It is a very good story. Extremely unusual, well researched and well written. I didn't enjoy it quite so much as Falling...
Published on 6 July 2011 by Ms. K. J. Waghorn

versus
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Nice Book
This was a good read, a good tale, but nothing exciting. It told you little bits about William Blake, but I do not feel like a Blake connoisseur having read this! The book tells of a family moving from Dorsetshire to London in 1792, which would probably ring true with anyone making a similar move today. The family live next door to William Blake, and occasionally their...
Published on 18 Jun 2007 by Victoria Smith


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Nice Book, 18 Jun 2007
This review is from: Burning Bright (Hardcover)
This was a good read, a good tale, but nothing exciting. It told you little bits about William Blake, but I do not feel like a Blake connoisseur having read this! The book tells of a family moving from Dorsetshire to London in 1792, which would probably ring true with anyone making a similar move today. The family live next door to William Blake, and occasionally their paths cross. I loved 'Girl with a Pearl Earring,' it made me seek out Vermeer's work, and look with renewed vigour at Dutch painting. This book simply does not enthuse you with any similar passion.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting historically, but not the most gripping story., 17 Aug 2007
By 
Helen Simpson (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Burning Bright (Hardcover)
An interesting and detailed picture of London in the late eighteenth century. The people and the industries of the time, along with the feeling of unrest as King George worries that his citizens will revolt like the French.

It took me a little while to get into the story, possibly because I wasn't particularly interested in the circus or the Astleys who owned it. I found it a little poor but it did improve and as the story developed I did grow to like Jem and Maggie, the main characters.

I would disagree with the synopsis that states, "Their friendship takes a dramatic turn when they become entangled in the life of their neighbour...William Blake." They hardly become entangled. He's a printer, a radical and poet who just happens to be a neighbour and features briefly from time to time to give them a little food for thought.

Pleasant, but not gripping.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 3 July 2008
This review is from: Burning Bright (Paperback)
This story is set in 18th century London and supposedly revolves around two children and the erudite figure of William Blake. One is struck with a certain authenticity in the way in which Chevalier writes, and there is very little against her quality of writing. The problem lies in her subject matter.

On the back of the cover it explains how the book is "Sparkling with seduction...drama", yet the drama that does come along is brief and shortlived. The action usually happens to her main children characters, but the way in which she describes these rare scenes of action is such that she almost treats her reader as a child.

And there in lies her main fault. The mark of a good story is registered not by how much is said, but by how much is not said, leaving the rest for the reader to make the connection. Chevalier does not leave enough to the reader to work out, and the mind switches off. She has become so absorbed with her characters and eighteenth century London that she has completely forgotten and disregarded her reader, leaving an empty, boring shell of a story to merely pass the time before her next novel.

Disappointing from an author of such quality.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, not her best., 23 Mar 2008
This review is from: Burning Bright (Paperback)
I have been a huge fan of Chevalier for a number of years now and absolutely love "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and "Falling Angels". (I'd recommend them in an instant!) When I heard that she was writing a new book (after about four years of no new publications) I couldn't wait to get hold of it, let alone read it.

To summise, the novel revolves arounds the Kellaway family, who move from rural Dorset to late 18th-century London, where they happen to become neighbours with William Blake. The son, Jem Kellaway starts work at a circus and makes friends with Maggie Butterfield. It is very much a tale of their friendship and their relationship with the Blakes.

On the surface, there isn't anything wrong with plot and it's not badly written. However, for me, it was missing something; I think it lacked passion - in her others novels, I have always felt that she enjoyed writing the books and developing the characters/plotlines. In this one, it didn't feel like Chevalier. In addition, one of the reasons why I like Chevalier is that her work doesn't come across as predictable, but in 'Burning Bright' there were one or two subplots (a pregnancy, for example) that were completely unnecessary. When that pregnancy occurred, I was almost screaming 'No!' because I just hoped it wasn't going to be that predictable. If anything, these episodes felt very contrived in order to take the reader from one phase to the next.

I am going to make a large presumption here but it crossed my mind that Chevalier had written the book simply because she hadn't had anything published in a while; almost as if to bring her back on the scene.

Would I recommend it? To be honest, I'd hesitate. If you like Chevalier, then at least read it, but have no expectations. If you have never read Chevalier before, DON'T start with this one.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Blake-lite, 25 Jun 2007
This review is from: Burning Bright (Hardcover)
If Catherine Cookson had written a book with William Blake in it, I think it would have been more heavyweight than this.

There's nothing terrible about the book per se, except that it is a hugely wasted opportunity. A story about murder, guilt, young love, prostitution, teenage pregnancy and sexual disease in late 18th century London should be far darker than the story Tracy Chevalier has crafted. In fact, these dark themes pervade the whole of Blake's work, but not this novel.

Having William Blake and his wife as incidental characters in the novel is a nice touch, but that's all it is. There's never any real sense of connection between the teenagers and Blake, other than he is a kindly, slightly dotty but well-meaning and wise "old" man (in fact, he would only have been in his mid-thirties when the book is set). Blake is rather one-dimensional and is always on hand at just the right time.

Chevalier has immense sympathy for the young women she protrays, and Maggie and Maisie are believable characters. Less so with the men. In fact, the male characters just drop out of the book without much word. The story about Astley and the circus goes nowhere, other than as a plot vehicle for the Kellaway family. The Butterfield men seem only to be there as cues for Maggie's behaviour.

The book is called Burning Bright and there is a lightness throughout the whole book. Blake, however, meant the light shining in the darkness. Unfortunately, though set the murderous and diseased capital London, which at the time was rent with politcal repression following the French Revolution, the book fails to provide the menace.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tracy tries too hard?, 26 Aug 2008
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This review is from: Burning Bright (Paperback)
This novel should be renamed Tracy Chevalier: What I've Learned About Eighteenth Century London and the Dorset Piddles.
In each of her previous novels, Chevalier evokes the relevant period so effortlessly that you feel as if you're there too. In contrast, Burning Bright is stuffed some way past bursting point with what I felt was heavy-handed and self-conscious period detail. In particular, the scene where Maggie and Jem follow the Blakes across London appears to have been written so that she can show off how much she's found out in her research.
This isn't a terrible book, by any means, but falls well below Chevalier's own high standards - it's not particularly well written, the plot is slight and the characters feel cliched. I can only think that the subject didn't really inspire her.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Underbelly of London with William Blake in the Background, 3 May 2007
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Burning Bright (Audio CD)
I suspect that if you have never read any of Tracy Chevalier's work, you'll like this book better than if you are a fan. Burning Bright intensely develops London with a sense of place that you won't find exceeded in too many novels based in the 1790s. But with London being such a big part of the book, you may find the plot and the characters pale by comparison. That's why I rated the book at three stars.

If you loved Girl with a Pearl Earring and carry with you the joy that you gained from learning about Vermeer and painting, I suspect you'll think that Burning Bright is more like a two-star book. Other than his sympathies for the French Revolution, you won't know much more about Blake when the book ends than when it began (except for a few glimpses of his personal quirks).

Those who will love this book best will be those who want to know about Philip Astley and Astley's Circus. Astley was the founder of the modern circus and cut quite a colorful figure in English society at the time. Ms. Chevalier's fictional characters are intimately tied to Astley, his son, and the circus.

You'll spend most of your time following the Kellaway family (father, Thomas, a maker of fine chairs; mother, Anne, a button maker and homemaker; daughter, Maisie, apprentice button maker; and Jem, son, apprenticed to his father) as they leave rural Dorset to follow up on Astley's promise of sponsorship for their chair making if they come to London. Astley, with prodding, makes good and the Kellaways are soon tenants in an Astley building. We see London through their fresh eyes.

To draw the contrast between rural people and Londoners, Ms. Chevalier develops another fictional family, the Butterfields, whose father, Dick, runs scams, whose son, Charlie, is an unenthusiastic scamster in training, whose mother, Bet, is a washerwoman, and whose daughter, Maggie, works in factory jobs and as a washerwoman, too. The families are mainly connected through Jem and Maggie who become friends.

William Blake and his wife are neighbors of the Kellaways. The two mostly make cameo appearances except for a few occasions where Blake discusses philosophy with Jem and Maggie. As the book ends, Blake has become attached to the two and provides a valuable gift for each.

William Blake is the poet I most often quote in my books. He has a timeless ability to capture the essence of modern ironies . . . especially the way that our perspective captures our ability to perceive and enjoy. Knowing his poetic works quite well, I looked forward to gaining a deeper appreciation. Just the opposite happened; there was so little Blake, the poet, in the book that I felt him disappearing from my perception.

This tyger needed to burn a lot brighter than it did.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very poor indeed, 23 Mar 2008
By 
An English Reader (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Burning Bright (Paperback)
No stars. It almost seems as if this book was written by someone other than Chevalier. The language was awkward, clumsy, and flat, as were the characterisations. The only attractive aspect of the novel was the photograph of the circus horse on the front cover. I've rarely run across such a poor effort by a good writer. The writing was so terrible overall that I couldn't finish the book. Yet her other works are very good indeed. If you're disappointed by this, do turn to Falling Angels or The Virgin Blue, where you will find evocative settings, lovely use of language, well-developed characters, and intricate plottting.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor writing, plodding action, 17 July 2007
This review is from: Burning Bright (Hardcover)
This is a great disappointment after some of Chevalier's previous novels. The prose is stilted with too much 'telling' and not enough 'showing'. The dialects used are irritating and unconvincing. The story is dull, the portrayal of Blake wholly unbelievable. The only thing in its favour is the amount of research done on old London, but this is supposed to be a novel, not a history of London. Worst of all, the writing is just poor and because of this the novel lacks warmth, resonance and direction. What a shame.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Plodding, 19 April 2010
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This review is from: Burning Bright (Paperback)
Not very good - clearly not her best. Was in an early one that she dragged out of the cupboard after she was famous? Or a contractual obligation book?

A sort of C18th melodrama complete with dastardly gentleman villain, heart of gold poor girl, etc. William Blake is a minor character, though I am not really sure why - he's barely a character at all, without depth or purpose.
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Burning Bright
Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier (Paperback - 14 Aug 2014)
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