Title: Burning Bright
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Published: 2007, Dutton
Category: Historical Fiction
This is Tracy Chevalier of Girl with a Pearl Earring fame. That book was the story of an ordinary girl whose life brushed with the famous painter Vermeer. Burning Bright is similar--it's the story of two children whose lives are affected by a different kind of artist: the poet William Blake.
Burning Bright is set in London in 1972, right at the beginning of the French Revolution. 13-year-old Jem Halloway has just moved with his family from rural Dorsetshire so that his father can accept a job as a carpenter for Philip Astley, of Astley's Amphitheater (the one often mentioned in romance novels!). Jem is very intimidated by the city at first and is happy to make friends with Maggie, a London-bred girl who delights in showing Jem the ropes. Jem and Maggie soon become acquainted with William Blake, who lives next door to the Halloways. Blake is rather an outcast in the neighborhood, so he takes the time to help the children and read his poetry to them (he says that his poems are best understood by children). Blake is also a supporter of the revolution in France, which gets him into trouble--trouble the children help him out of.
I enjoyed this solely as a historical piece--Chevalier does a wonderful job of describing what life was like in London at that time. All the characters are of the working class, so you see how hard life was for them. Poor Maggie working 12 hours a day in a factory when she's still so young! It makes me very happy I live in comfortable 21st century America.
But overall, I have to say meh. The plot is a bit meandering. I liked the characters but I kept waiting for the real action to start. And then the book ended. It seemed like Chevalier was trying to make some great point about innocence vs. experience, but it never quite gelled for me.
Still, an interesting read. And the jacket is very pretty. :p