My first visit to the Resplendent Readers was in December. I
awaited the handout of the book with a mixture of apprehension and pleasure.
The former because I had not read anything not of my choosing since A Level set
text. Although I feel I have an eclectic taste in reading matter, I was looking forward to being challenged out of my comfort zone. The books were duly handed out and I instantly felt the book
might prove promising. The book’s title Book of Fires [By Jane Borodale] its cover design and synopsis immediately hooked me in. I was not disappointed.
The book is historical fiction, but it is also one of social history. The tale and its characters are placed in the 18c and it is interwoven with the social mores of its time constantly comparing rural and city life. This is brought vividly to life by the main character Agnes Trussel. We follow her journey from an impoverished yet relatively happy rural life to an uncertain future in the city of London.
I loved the way the author portrays Agnes as a girl who unwittingly finds herself pregnant
and naively thinks the best way forward is to leave for London, as staying would bring shame and financial hardship on her already hard pressed family. We the reader then set off on this journey with Agnes with all its inherent dangers and its fortunes. By chance she finds herself employed by a
maker of fireworks and her life changes forever. Her employer Mr. Blacklock is an enigma
and an elusive character, with an innate sense of sadness. The other characters, mainly those placed in the City of London and Mr Blacklock’s household, show the reader the reality of life and the social mores of 18c everyday living. Through the very good quality of the authors prose I could see, smell, feel and touch the contrast between life in the city and that of the countryside.
Although surprised by Mr.Blacklock’s demise I thought the ending of the book a little clichéd and predictable. I wanted to know more about how Agnes fares and whether she succeeds with her new found luck and responsibilities.
Prior to reading this book, I had no previous knowledge of the art of pyrotechnics or its origins. Firework displays will be all the more enjoyable for it. I have tried not to reveal too much of the plot in my review as I would recommend this book as a good read for anyone with an interest in historical fiction or fireworks!