Friday, August 3, 2012

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

I was charmed by Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring, especially the dynamics of daily life in that time and place combined with the insight into the great artist. In Burning Bright, Chevalier again pairs a story of life in a different time with another great artist but somewhat less effectively.

The story, set in the 1790's, brings a rural family to Georgian London. The chair maker father has been invited to work for a gregarious circus owner, but the story revolves around the children, son Jem, daughter Maisie and their streetwise London friend Maggie. The children explore London and learn more about themselves than anything else.

The artist/writer/printer William Blake happens to live next door to the family. Jem and Maggie, according to the story, inspire Blake's most famous work, Songs of Innocence and Experience.

While the story is interesting, the description of London in the 1790's is what makes this book worth reading. And while I like Blake's art much more than his writing, his combination of art and poetry have anchored a tradition in the arts that has inspired countless artists.

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