- Also check our best rated Romance Book reviews
Burning Bright Paperback – 14 Aug 2014
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I was disappointed by this book. I read it because I had recently read and enjoyed Chevalier's novel Remarkable Creatures, which tells the story of two women, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, who in the early nineteenth century made important contributions to the then emerging science of evolution; Remarkable Creatures provides a good perspective both about the two women and about the contemporary scientific debate. With this in mind, I had anticipated that Burning Bright would focus on Blake - an historical figure of great interest - and that I would gain new insights about him as a result. I particularly expected that it would focus on his attitude towards the French Revolution and its possible consequences for England, given the novel's 1792-93 setting.
Unfortunately, Blake is a marginal figure in the book, whose focus is on the fictional characters. I didn't feel that I learned anything worthwhile about him at all. As for the French Revolution, this features only in one small part of the book, and again no significant insights or ideas are developed. Thus, this book doesn't replicate the strengths of Remarkable Creatures in illuminating interesting historical figures. This might not matter if its fictional characters were well developed or if it had an ingenious plot or interesting themes. Unfortunately, none of these requirements is met. Overall, I couldn't quite see the point of the book, though I do accept that it has some good features: for example, there are good descriptive passages which give a nice feel for London life at the end of the eighteenth century; and Chevalier seems to have done her research about both Blake and Astley thoroughly. These strengths, though, don't outweigh my disappointment that Chevalier missed an opportunity by not bringing Blake more centrally into the book (perhaps making him one of the narrators, as she does with Anning and Philpot in Remarkable Creatures).
I might well read other Chevalier novels in the hope that they are more like Remarkable Creatures than Burning Bright, but I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who wants to read interesting historical fiction.
And that's about all that happens for the bulk of the novel, until Chevalier suddenly realizes that she's not really given the book much plot, and introduces two slightly melodramatic scenarios, one involving Jem's sister Maisie and another Dorset girl 'gone to the bad' in London, and another involving a petition showing support for King George brought round to the area. 'Burning Bright' certainly gives a good sense of what London might have been like at the end of the 18th century. Chevalier has a knack of describing locations well, and she creates a few memorable characters (such as Maggie's father who appears to be an 18th-century equivalent of Del Boy, or Jem, confused by London and his growing feelings for Maggie). She's a good researcher, and the material on Blake in the book is interesting - and her portrayal of the Blakes' marriage effective and rather moving. However, this doesn't make up for the fact that the book is very short on plot, and that too many of the characters are stereotypes. Chevalier doesn't make as much interesting use of Blake as she might do - we get none of the story from his point of view, and he's all too prone simply to arrive on a scene and start reciting his own verses (as poets so often do in bio-pic films and books) rather than actually engage in extended dialogue with the fictional characters. The Dorset family are all simple, good-hearted rustics, who speak in clumsy dialect and seem so lost in London (apart from Jem) that one wonders why they ever chose to get there in the first place. Jem's sister Maisie is particularly annoying - so naive that she comes across as quite stupid. Dorset does seem to bring out a brand of tweeness in modern writers (like Natasha Solomons's merry rustics in 'Mr Rosenblum's List') and how much mileage can writers really get out of the fact that there's an area in Dorset called the Piddle Valley? The Londoners, by contrast, are all streetwise insolence and swaggering scorn at the country characters' naivety (which can get quite repetitive - if I'd heard Maggie call Maisie 'Miss Piddle' or refer to the Kellaways' home village as 'Piddle-dee-dee' once more I'd have thrown the book across the room). Due to the leisurely pace of much of the novel the final scenes, in which Maggie plays a noble role, feel rushed, and the ending inconclusive. So I didn't feel the book hung together in terms of plot at all.
Chevalier certainly writes interestingly about Blake's work as a printer and poet, and the love interest between Maggie and Jem (who come to see the Songs of Innocence and Experience as 'their' books) is rather touching. But all in all this is a rather shapeless book, that doesn't do Blake quite enough justice as a poet or thinker, and doesn't provide fictional characters who are of enough interest to sit alongside this mighty figure in literature. It's a reasonable read, and I'm certainly going to read more Chevalier novels - but if I want to read about Blake I think I might stick to his own work or try a good biography, rather than revisit this book.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews