Book: Burning Bright
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Rating: * * *
As historical novelists go, Tracy Chevalier is known for her vivid descriptions which make the sights, smells and textures of the past jump off the page, and her latest novel definitely prevails in this respect.
As in her ever popular novel Girl with a Pearl Earring Chevalier constructed her story around famous art and in Burning Bright she is inspired by the poetry of William Blake. However, Blake’s role within the novel is shaky; it often feels that within the vivid descriptions of London and the many plot lines, Blake has been placed in the novel merely for historical detail.
Chevalier provides many excerpts from Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience which reflect the narrative, and Blake’s only role within the novel seems to be as their philosophical mentor guiding them from innocence to experience.
The accumulation of description, excerpts of poetry and restless shifting between characters, action and drama means that the reader is constantly distracted and not really provided with the juicy plot you expect from Chevalier.