Friday, March 2, 2012

Book Club Friday: Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

Guess what today is...

If you guessed Friday, you're only half right.

Today is Book Club Friday, that awesome day when we all get down & dirty for literature.

I skipped it last week because I've been just a little preoccupied with moving to Canada. I'm keeping on schedule with my goal to read a  new book every week (rereads of old favorites don't count), but I already wrote a separate post on The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Today I'm going to discuss a work of historical fiction that I picked up in a cute little secondhand bookstore my first night in Canada.

I first discovered Tracy Chevalier when I bought Girl with a Pearl Earring, arguably her most famous work, sometime way back in high school. My love affair with her writing continued with The Virgin Blue and The Lady & The Unicorn. The concept behind her writing is to create a story around famous artists or writers, focusing on a singular work.* 

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.

Although a good read, I will say this is much more predictable than her other books. The protagonists are the preteens Maggie Butterfield, a street smart girl with a dark secret, and Jem Kellaway, a quiet boy newly transplanted from the countryside. The second Maggie pales at the slightest mention of her secret, I guessed it correctly. Even a twist with Jem's sister, Maisie, came as no surprise. The predictability of the book didn't detract from my pleasure in reading it; I was just disappointed compared to the twists and turns of Chevalier's other novels. 

*I enjoyed The Lady & The Unicorn all the more because I've seen all the tapestries in Paris.


  1. Awww, I hate when a good author just doesn't deliver.

    1. I know! It was still enjoyable, but her other books are all a 9 or 10. This was a 7 at best.

  2. love the idea of taking something we already know about and putting a new twist on it (like gregory maguire's books about fairy tales from other POVs!) but i hate it when the twists are too predictable!

    1. I mean, the way she presented the two adolescents in contrast to Blake's poems was brilliant. But she was a little overhanded with the metaphor of innocence/experience. Plus the dark "secret" that's alluded to during the book was SO obvious. In her other books, similar mysteries kept me guessing until the very end.


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