Friday 31 January 2014

Book Review - Burning Bright

Title: Burning Bright
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: 4 Feb 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0007178360

Poet, artist, and printer William Blake works in obscurity as England is rocked by the shock waves of the French Revolution. Next door, the Kellaway family has just moved in, and country boy Jem Kellaway strikes up a tentative friendship with street–savvy Maggie Butterfield.

As their stories intertwine with Blake’s, the two children navigate the confusing and exhilarating path to adolescence, and inspire the poet to create the work that enshrined his genius.

My Review
Every month in the library we hold an 'Open Book Group' session, which basically means that we advertise the book we are going to read and then anyone who comes into the library can request a copy and come along to the discussion meeting. The staff take it in turns to run the session, this month it was my turn and I was given this one.
I've never read Chevalier before and can't say I've ever really wanted to, but I was told that I might enjoy this one and that it was a fairly easy going read.
I left it to the last minute to read, basically starting it at 9pm Thursday night when the meeting was on Friday. I must admit I was exactly captivated and by 10:30 I had put it down for a break, eager to do something else!
Knowing I had to finish it I then ending up staying up until 1:30 in the morning slogging through it.
The mention of a circus in this book was one thing that made me a bit more inclined to read it, I really like things to do with the circus in books, especially more old fashioned style stories but I was disappointed with it, the circus is actually more of a back setting to the story, a place for a few characters to meet and interact for a while but it isn't actually that relevant in my opinion. Which considering the picture on the front is a bit misleading.
The story is set in 1792 and follows the Kellaway family as they move from Dorsetshire to London, it's a very different place and at first they are over-whelmed but they soon find themselves getting use to the hustle and bustle of the town. We have Mr Kellaway who makes wooden chairs for a living, his wife, his son Jem and his daughter Maisie. Considering Jem is supposed to be a teenager he came across to me as a bit weak willed and quite young in spirit, he seemed like a right pushover, I kept waiting for him to do something to prove himself but it never really came. 
The redeeming feature of the book is Maggie, a young girl from London who befriends the family, especially Jem. She has a wicked personality and really lights up the story, she brings a real spark to it and makes it much more exciting. I liked her easy spirit and quick easy speech.
Although the book is based on William Blake's life he too seems like a secondary character, and not all that important - parts of his poetry are quoted throughout the book which helps set the scene a little, but actually got a bit irritating after a while, I found myself skimming them.
The book jumps from scene to scene and never really delves into any given situation so I felt a little bit disconnected throughout, I never really felt involved with the characters or that I cared that much about them.
When I finished the book I wondered what the point was - it didn't really ever go anywhere, I was waiting for something to happen to make it all worth while but I was left feeling a bit deflated.
I found out that The Astley circus and the building that Blake lived in really did exist and that a couple of the scenes in the book were based on real life events - this made it seem a bit more relevant and made me appreciate the book a little bit more. But I think there should be a page at the back of the book to let you know this, make it more general knowledge without having to look up info online.
I fully admit this is not my normal sort of read and I would never have chosen it otherwise, but I am always willing to try different things and have found some gems before, it just wasn't meant to be this time.

My Rating

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Aw I'm so sorry you didn't enjoy this book! It does sound a bit boring to me too though. Great review!

-Kimi at Geeky Chiquitas