The last decade of the eighteenth century brought huge political upheaval to Britain. The execution of the King of France, the scenes of the jubilant revolutionaries dancing around the guillotine, the seizure of property, brought hope to some and fear to others. And it is in this period that Tracy Chevalier has set her remarkable new novel, 'Burning Bright'.
The Kellaways were chair–makers and had always lived in Dorset. Personal tragedy brought them to London, to work for the famous Astley's Circus. The change to the tumultuous street–life of Lambeth was amazing to the whole family, but it was their son, Jem, always the quickest, the most questioning, who discovered not only his guide to London – and much else – in Maggie Butterfield and but also the extraordinary ways of their neighbour, William Blake. The interweaving lives of the innocent country Kellaways, the experienced London Butterfields, the strange but passionate man of conscience, William Blake, meant that none of them were unchanged, and some paid a heavy price for their resistance or support in a time of high social unrest.
'Burning Bright' is not only a brilliant portrait of a time of revolution in Britain but it is also Tracy Chevalier's most powerful and moving novel, full of extraordinary characters, and remarkable insight into the qualities of innocence and experience.