Reviews for Burning Bright

Booklist Reviews 2006 December #2
Chevalier made a considerable popular and critical splash with her 2000 novel Girl with a Pearl Earring, based on seventeenth-century Dutch painter Vermeer's model for his painting of that name. It was a precise, elegant evocation of Renaissance Delft, and readers who expect the same kind of atmospheric reconstruction of place in her new novel will not be disappointed; eighteenth-century London, from its shadier neighborhoods to its more elegant areas, arises from these pages in all its cacophony. But where the previous novel moved speedily, this one bogs down in plot inertia. The premise: a family of very modest means moves to the British capital from the countryside; the father of the family, a chair maker, has impressed circus impresario Philip Astley, during his tour of the counties, with his abilities and consequently received an invitation to come to London to join the circus as builder of all sorts of things. This family tale settles for the most part on the shoulders of the two youngest children, a boy and a girl, and a girl they befriend, who introduces them to the byways of the great metropolis. A neighbor of the new-to-the-city family is the famous real-life poet William Blake, but his role in the story never seems to gel. Regardless of its drawbacks, expect considerable demand. ((Reviewed December 15, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2006 December #2
A colorful historical novel considers the perils of life in 18th-century England.Georgian London might itself be the biggest character in Chevalier's latest (after The Lady and the Unicorn, 2004, etc.). Rogues and bounders, larger-than-life benefactors and unworldly country folk populate a story that gives prominence to a fictional portrait of William Blake but devotes many of its pages to the broad social panorama--circuses and mustard factories, Bedlam and Bunhill Fields Burying Ground. The Kellaway family has just arrived from rural Dorset after a death in the family. Thomas Kellaway, a chairmaker, has been offered work by circus entrepreneur Philip Astley: The Kellaway's son, Jem, assists his father with the carpentering, when not distracted by street-wise Maggie Butterfield; pretty daughter Maisie yearns for Astley's handsome, heartless son John. The Blakes live nearby in Lambeth, and Jem becomes acquainted with the kindly radical poet and engraver who sometimes wears a red cap in support of the revolution taking place in France. Not much happens: John tries to seduce Maisie; Maggie reveals a violent past; a mob attacks the Blakes for their politics. Chevalier echoes (and quotes from) Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience, aspects of which are reflected in her characters, especially the various ruined or near-ruined women. Eventually, the Kellaways go home to Dorset, Astley joins the war in France and Maggie reveals a heart of gold.A story rich in background but lacking a compelling center. Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2006 November #1
The Kellaways are country mice come to work for Astley's Circus in 1790s London, where they meet city mouse William Blake-and no one is ever the same. The next blockbuster from Chevalier. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Reviews 2007 February #2

Late 17th-century London comes alive in this latest offering from Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring ). After a tragic death in the family, the Kellaways are persuaded by a traveling circus owner to move to the bustling city, where they discover that they live next door to the famous William Blake: printer, poet, and political radical. A streetwise girl named Maggie befriends the youngest boy, Jem, and their coming-of-age adventures eventually provide material for Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience . In addition, the French Revolution has made everyone jittery, and the family is soon caught up in the excitement and uncertainty of political unrest; they also face economic hardship, struggling daily to earn enough to stay together. 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. Recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/06.]--Kellie Gillespie, City of Mesa Lib., AZ

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 December #3

Author of Girl with a Pearl Earring , set in the home/studio of Vermeer, and other novels, Chevalier turns in an oblique look at poet and painter William Blake (1757 1827). Following the accidental death of their middle son, the Kellaways, a Dorsetshire chair maker and family, arrive in London's Lambeth district during the anti-Jacobin scare of 1792. Thomas Kellaway talks his way into set design work for the amiable circus impresario Philip Astley, whose fireworks displays provide the same rallying point that the guillotine is providing in Paris. Astley's libertine horseman son, John, sets his sights on Kellaway's daughter, Maisie (an attention she rather demurely returns). Meanwhile, youngest surviving Kellaway boy Jem falls for poor, sexy firebrand Maggie Butterfield. Blake, who imagined heaven and hell as equally incandescent and earth as the point where the two worlds converge, is portrayed as a murky Friar Laurence figure whose task is to bind and loosen the skeins of young love going on around himâ€"that is, until a Royalist mob intrudes into his garden to sound out his rather advanced views on liberty, equality and fraternity. 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. (Mar.)

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