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Kept: A Victorian Mystery Paperback – 1 Feb 2007

3.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Paperback Printing edition (1 Feb. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099488744
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099488743
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 159,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A gripping tale, crafted with passion, and intelligence, and an honourable addendum to the golden age of the English novel" (Simon Baker New Statesman)

"A genuinely fascinating reading experience... A pageturner of the highest order. It is a genuine mystery - not a simple whodunnit but a constant revelation of a complex and tight-knit plot" (Philippa Gregory The Times)

"He has a faultless ear for the varied nuances of mid-Victorian English... [and] takes a wicked pleasure in creating a dense underlay of references, a blend of historical fact and other authors' fiction which lies beneath his narrative and occasionally erupts into it... Clever and hugely readable" (Andrew Taylor Independent)

"Taylor's skill ensures the book never loses its grip... Hugely enjoyable...Conan Doyle, Dickens and Wilkie Collins knew how to do it, and Taylor has learned his lesson well... A great read. It intrigues, diverts and delights. It is clever and intricate and huge fun" (Susan Hill Guardian)

"Taylor is marking out a territory as distinct and disturbing as Greenland, with the same imperative towards moral inquisition and a flatlands melancholy that is all his own" (Hilary Mantel Sunday Times)

Book Description

Madness, greed, love, obsession, Machiavellian plotting and a great train robbery in a captivating Victorian mystery about desire and possession.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I quite like DJ Taylor as an essayist and TV talking head, and I love Victorian mysteries, so when I came across this I reckoned it couldn't go wrong. It was a terrible let-down. In spite of the title there is not really any mystery at all, and despite the story being told from a dizzying variety of multiple viewpoints not much in the way of plot when you get down to it - and of the minor puzzles there are, several are simply not explained by the end. The climax is given away on the first page and not even fleshed out later.

The book is padded out with far too many scenes of characters schlepping around London on irrelevant or uninteresting errands, and vignettes that tell us things we already know. While there's no lack of Victoriana, and every locale is duly described as being miserable and dreary-looking, there is a deficiency of atmosphere. It is more an intellectual exercise in pastiche than a living novel and far too down-to-earth and mundane: a great detective who has been built-up offstage turns out when he finally arrives to be incredibly bland, and is enabled to unravel the case by a stroke of luck, of which the narrator slyly remarks that it would be tutted at in a work of fiction - well, yes. At another point the (unnamed but intrusive) narrator wryly notes the tendency of the novelists of the period to romanticise London types into loveable comic characters - 'London has been discovered'. One smiles, but the book would have benefited from a 'character' or so of its own.

In fact the book comes to seem like some pointless post-modern exercise in deflating the genre and thwarting the reader's expectations. A character one anticipates is going to be become the hero does very little even to advance the story.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is difficult to know where to start in reviewing this book, so many and varied are its qualities. First of all, the book teems with richly-painted, unforgettable characters from the lowest reaches to the very highest of Victorian society: billbrokers, parlourmaids, curates, noblemen, attorneys and whatnot, all of them described with often the most telling details.

Then there's the plot: the very first page of the book by way of newspaper obituaries reveals that 2 people will die (Henry Ireland and James Dixey), but although the next chapter goes back to a time when both are still alive this does not in the least diminish the tension built page after page. On the contrary, chapter after chapter you eagerly read on to find out how they will meet their end.

Next, I should mention the fascinating mix of literary techniques and points of view D.J. Taylor uses: excerpts from diaries, third-and first-person narrative, at times an (almost) omniscient author, it's all there and used to very good effect.

Last but not least, it's been quite a while since I came across a novel so rich and colourful in its use of the English language. Consider this: "a tall man, elderly but apparently vigorous, in a suit of black with a white stock tied around his throat and bony hands that, resting curiously on the desk before him, looked as if they might have concerns of their own and be about to go scuttling off across the veneer in defiance of their owner's wishes.". There's close to 500 pages of the same stuff waiting for you behind the cover of 'Kept', what's keeping you?
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Format: Paperback
This really is a fantastic book and I urge you to read it! The plot has lots of different strands including a `madwoman' in an attic, a train robbery, 2 murders, bird egg stealing, a very moving tale of a man trekking through the snow after losing his friends, a vicars romance and a poor mouse called Sir Charles (I won't tell you about his fate!!) among others. If you think this may be too much to take in one book then think again. I hate saying this but I quite literally could `not put it down'. A brilliant read.
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A rather ponderous and pedestrian read that does not bear a scratch on its Victorian antecedents. It also compares unfavourably with the work of other contempory writers of Victorian pastiche such as Michael Cox and Charles Palliser.
In some places the sentence structure is so tortuously convoluted that one has to read it twice before any sense or meaning is apparent. The plot line is also all over the place and lacks a sense of coherence. Perhaps the author ought to have limited the narrative voices to one or two instead of having several perspectives. On the whole a disappointing read and an overrated book.
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Format: Paperback
Excellent, atmospheric novel. As compelling as it is authentic. A must for fans of Dickens/Wilkie Collins who only wish that sometimes those (still great) authors could say something in a paragraph rather than in a chapter.
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Format: Paperback
Set in 1860s England this novel is very much in the style of familiar Victorian fiction, but it is more than just a ponderous rehash of the typical works of the time. The story centres on the mental disturbances of a beautiful widow Mrs Isabel Ireland, who is incarcerated in Easton Hall in Norfolk, the run-down substantial property of her husband’s friend, the naturalist James Dixey. There is a mystery surrounding Dixey’s unwillingness to divulge details of Isabel’s health, the background to which introduces a criminal fraternity who have been involved in the case and who embark upon a 19th Century equivalent of the Great Train Robbery. The story is narrated through the perspective of different narrators who employ a range of styles, form correspondence, journals, the omniscient Trollopian narrator and the more modern disjointed thoughts of Isabel. This mélange works well for the plot is stitched together ably and the story is followed by characters (and often their names) already reasonably familiar to the reader from the Victorian canon. The historical context is sound, with many references to the customs and practices of the day, as well as detailed footnotes section at the end of the novel, to explain the references made to historical events and personages, often with postmodern tongue firmly in cheek, I feel. The two concerns I have with the novel is that despite the erudition, convincing historical background and excellence of style, the characters somehow do not really engage the emotions of the reader, and there is the occasional “continuity” problem, which should have been spotted by good editing.
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