“Burning Bright” by Tracy Chevalier was not her best work. I enjoyed the story, but not the characters and it seemed to end on kind of a flat note. It was an okay book, but way below my standards for Tracy Chevalier. If you’ve never read her before then you would probably enjoy “Burning Bright”. As someone that relishes her novels, I was disappointed.
In “Burning Bright” we follow a family that moves from a quiet country town to London after an off-hand job offer by a man that runs the circus. One of their neighbors is William Blake. The family, looking for a distraction after the death of one of their sons, finds themselves swept away in the thrill of city life. The mother becomes fascinated by the circus, the daughter becomes infatuated with one of the performers, the father finds enjoyment in his work, and the son strikes up a friendship with a girl named Maggie. She was the only character that I liked and cared about. Jem and Maggie’s friendship gets a bit complicated since they are both at an age where they’re starting to feel attraction to the opposite sex and are confused and excited by this unconscious flirtation. Their interactions were entertaining, especially when William Blake would subtly tease the not-quite lovers.
I think where I struggled with this book was with the characters. They just weren’t very likable and I find it hard to care about what happens in a book when I don’t care about the characters. There wasn’t anything wrong with the writing, and with another author I would probably have found few faults. But I hold Chevalier up to a higher standard at this point and I was let down.
Would I recommend this book? Eh, it was okay. If you’re just looking for an interesting read to glimpse what life was like when William Blake was around, this should do the trick. If you don’t know Tracy Chevalier’s work then you would quite possibly enjoy this. If you are an avid reader and fan of Tracy Chevalier – then you might be disappointed. This isn’t going to turn me off from reading her works, but the likelihood that I will revisit this particular novel is low. I’d rather be reading “The Virgin Blue.”