Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The Book of Fires
Books never end the way I want them to. Well, rarely. Those darn authors don't always give me the perfect wrapup I want. But sometimes even when the ending isn't what I want, it is perfect. Or at least close.
The Book of Fires is Jane Borodale's first book, I understand. That's too bad, because I'd like to read something else of hers, now. I'd been rattling around trying to find something to read, here in this house of books. Nothing was right. I wanted something Dickensian but not Dickens. Something darkish but not too dark. Something suspenseful but not scary.
Then I found The Book of Fires. The blurb looked good: the time period was about right, the story sounded promising. I like fireworks.
Agnes is a young woman with a big problem: a pregnancy at age 17. So she leaves her poor country home and heads to London, where she serendipitously finds work as assistant to Mr. Blacklock, a pyrotechnist. She finds she enjoys and is skilled at the work, but her new life is shadowed by her pregnancy and her certainty that she will be dismissed when her disgrace is discovered.
This is not a bleak book, though it is dark. I knew I wasn't going to be completely pleased with the ending - I can't stand too much suspense and at one point flipped to the end of the book to see what was coming. I should never do that; it can be disappointing. But the author knew better than I. There were several surprises that wouldn't have been if the story had progressed as I wanted it to.
The book is told in the first person; a few reviews I read considered this a flaw. Certainly there were characters whose point of view I'd love to have heard, in particular Mr. Blacklock's. But it is Agnes's story anyway, so she should be the one telling it.
There are some colorful characters, drawn well. 18-century London is dark and dirty and sometimes ugly. But there is beauty too. And excitement, as Agnes and Mr. Blacklock seek to bring color to their fireworks. And frustration on my part, as Agnes doesn't see everything that I see and doesn't respond to people as I believe she ought.
All in all, a very satisfying novel. I can't wait to see Ms. Borodale's next.