An extraordinary book that gripped me from beginning to end,
This review is from: To the Fair Land (Paperback)
From the first page, this extraordinary book plunges the reader into late 18th century London and its theatres and coffee-houses and far beyond. For anyone whose impressions of that period have been largely drawn (as I confess have mine) by the dictionary episode of Blackadder the Third, To the Fair Land effortlessly supplants them with a much richer understanding of the age and its wider culture.
There are lots of different strands that make this a fascinating book:
1) The characters are well drawn, making the reader sympathetic to the obsessions that trigger the dangerous quest of the hero, Ben Dearlove.
2) The writing is masterful, weaving a multi-sensory experience of the many settings described. The reader is right there with the characters, immersed in the action like an invisible fly on the wall.
3) The settings are especially fascinating to anyone who has associations with London's theatre land or the historic maritime city of Bristol and its environs or who is interested in England's seafaring heritage. If this book is not already on sale in maritime museums in Bristol, London and beyond, it jolly well should be: it is a vivid education in what it was like to voyage in an 18th century ship.
4) Aspiring or established authors will find the bookselling and book production and distribution themes eye-opening - and it will make them thankful to live in in the age of digital printing and publshing!
But you don't need to love any of its settings or themes to enjoy what is as thrilling and startling as any good detective story with deep human topics and values at its core. It puts me in mind of Conan Doyle in this respect: a stimulating chase that leaves you pondering on the human condition long after you've finished the final page.
Although this book was darker than my usual reading matter (and quite rightly so: there are too many serious issues involved for it to be any less dark), I really enjoyed it and will definitely be recommending it to others, as well as looking out for other books by Lucienne Boyce.
And don't worry, it won't make Blackadder the Third any less enjoyable!