Burning Bright follows the Kellaway family as they leave behind tragedy in rural Dorset and come to late 18th-century London. As they move in next door to the radical painter/poet William Blake, and take up work for a near-by circus impresario, the youngest family member gets to know a girl his age. Embodying opposite characteristics Maggie Butterfield is a dark-haired, streetwise extrovert, Jem Kellaway a quiet blond introvert the children form a strong bond while getting to know their unusual neighbor and his wife.
Set against the backdrop of a city nervous of the revolution gone sour across the Channel in France, Burning Bright explores the states of innocence and experience just as Blake takes on similar themes in his best-known poems, Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
"While the setting is dramatically fertile, there's no spark to the dialogue or plot, and allusions to Blake's work and themes are overbaked." - PW.
"But where the previous novel moved speedily, this one bogs down in plot inertia." - Booklist.
"A story rich in background but lacking a compelling center." - Kirkus.
"Chevalier's vivid descriptions and unusual mix of characters make this story an easy pleasure to read. The Blake connection, however, feels contrived and distracts from the plot, which weakens and loses steam after such a strong beginning-a minor quibble for fans of the genre or the author." - Library Journal.
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Rated of 5
A look at London long ago
This is not as good as "Girl With One Pearl Earring" by a wide margin, and William Blake seems more like an extra character, not the central focus as the title would suggest, but the story and the characters kept me interested all the way through.
Tracy Chevalier was born in Washington, DC but has lived in England all her adult life. She now has dual citizenship. She has a BA in English from Oberlin College, Ohio and an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. She lives in London with her English husband and son. Before turning to writing full-time, she was a reference book editor for several years. She has written 7 novels. Her second novel, Girl with a Pearl Earring, won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, sold 4 million copies worldwide, and was made into a film starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson.
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