4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
an unusual story, worth reading,
This review is from: Burning Bright (Paperback)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 Angels but it certainly made me think about different things and care about some of the characters. I think part of its charm is that it is written in such a way that one could almost imagine Jem or Maggie telling the story. I wonder if that is deliberate.
The underlying theme running through the story is William Blake's idea of "opposites" and here we have two young people on the verge of becoming "grown up" [in 1792 life expectancy was much lower than it is now - people aged about 45 were probably considered old]. They have contrasting experiences of life and different expectations of the future. London, Lambeth and the Piddle Valley are vividly depicted but both Jem and Maggie know that life is hard wherever you live and moments of leisure, enjoyment and happiness are fleeting so must be savoured. I think that the naive style of writing therefore contributes to the "opposites" theme: factual details and descriptions are accurate yet written in such a way that you sometimes feel there is something more that is not being said - something that Jem and Maggie have no knowledge of or are unable to understand until they are older.
I am surprised at the large number of luke-warm reviews. I have read hundreds of books over the years and this is certainly one of the most interesting. If you only ever read [for example] chic lit or rags to riches family sagas this will be a totally different experience - but it will be worth it.