14 February 2010

The Book of Fires

By Jane Borodale
Published by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking
First published January 2010

The advance copy of this book has a most beautiful and striking cover - it's an illustration of fireworks exploding over London in the time period in which this book was set (1752). I was saddened to see the cover has changed to the one pictured here. I'm convinced that once you start putting beautiful girls on the covers of books - particularly if that book is written by a female - the only audience you're setting yourself up for is those who are expecting chick-lit. And this book is not chick-lit.

When seventeen-year-old Agnes Trussel discovers she is pregnant, she devises a plan to leave her village and make her way to London. Although her plan causes her to be deceitful, Agnes believes if she leaves the village she will not shame her family or be forced to marry the father of her child.

Upon arriving in London and swiftly losing her way, Agnes ends up at the home of John Blacklock who has advertised for the position of housekeeper. Agnes is hired, but instead of keeping house she becomes the apprentice to Blacklock, who makes fireworks.

Borodale seems to have channelled Tracy Chevalier with her beautiful descriptions of making the fireworks and how each chemical causes a different sort of explosion. The London world as seen through the eyes of apprentice Agnes is a scary yet wondrous place and, thanks to the amount of detail in this novel, you can imagine it perfectly.

Beautiful details, interesting characters, and unforeseen plot twists, make this an excellent first novel for Jane Borodale.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great read! Reminds me of The House at Riverton.


Regina Della Neve said...

I need to catch up on your blog...I think I might find a good use of the Chapters giftcard I got for Christmas.

This book sounds like something that I would enjoy very much.

CLB said...

I an going to order this book!