Monday, 19 April 2010

The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale

The story is set in London in 1752.  Seventeen-year-old Agnes has a secret, and has fled her rural home in order to keep it hidden -- for as long as she can.  As night falls on her first day in the huge city, she finds herself on the doorstep of Mr. Blacklock, Pyrotechnist, who happens to be in need of a housekeeper.

I was first attracted to this book because it included fireworks.  My husband has the occasional job of setting up and launching firework shows.  I had to read this book and see how it compared to what he knows in practice.  While the field has advanced tremendously over the intervening 250 plus years, the fundamentals are still the same and even the names of some of the fireworks has been maintained.  It was exciting to read the passages where Jane and Mr. Blacklock were discussing the making of coloured fireworks.

Following is my favourite passage where he is instructing Agnes on working carefully in her work habits:
you must begin with basic comprehension of the materials you work with.  Nothing good was learnt too swiftly.  Knowledge should be a purposeful accumulance of observed experience, applied and tested to the full.
The interplay of the household staff; Mrs. Blight, the cook; Mary Spurren, the housekeeper; Joe Thamazin, orphan/assitant; and Agnes, showed the mistrust and jealousy that can occur when people of different backgrounds are thrown together.  I never really trusted Mary all the way through the book, and then in the end she showed her true colours which surprised me. 

I had no inkling of how this story would turn out and was pleased with the outcome.  Author Jane Borodale has written a thought provoking first novel with characters realistic to their time period and situations in life.  I am looking forward to her follow-up to this story.  Visit Jane's website for a video trailer and a Q&A section that will leave you wanting to rush out and purchase this book.

Thank-you to Penguin Books for sending me this book for review.

Marie at Daisy's Book Journal has also posted a review.


Tea said...

I love to read debut novels. I enjoyed reading about the book along with your personal experience. Great review.

Jill said...

I have never heard of this author, but it sounds like a fascinating book. Very cool about the fireworks!

Lover of Books said...

This sounds like a good one. Good to know that it is accurate even for a historical. Off to add it to my wish list at Amazon! :)

Felicity Grace Terry said...

Ever hopeful,I'd promised myself I wouldn't buy any more books until Christmas but will certainly be ading this to my wish list.
Have the pigs been named yet?

The Single Nester said...

This sounds like an interesting read. Not much into period novels but this might just work.