Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Review: The Book of Fires & Giveaway

Summary: Reminiscent of Year of Wonders, a captivating debut novel of fireworks, fortune, and a young woman's redemption It is 1752 and seventeen-year-old Agnes Trussel arrives in London pregnant with an unwanted child. Lost and frightened, she finds herself at the home of Mr. J. Blacklock, a brooding fireworks maker who hires Agnes as an apprentice. As she learns to make rockets, portfires, and fiery rain, she slowly gains his trust and joins his quest to make the most spectacular fireworks the world has ever seen.

Jane Borodale offers a masterful portrayal of a relationship as mysterious and tempestuous as any the Brontës conceived. Her portrait of 1750s London is unforgettable, from the grimy streets to the inner workings of a household where little is as it seems. Through it all, the clock is ticking, for Agnes's secret will not stay secret forever.


Deeply atmospheric and intimately told from Agnes's perspective, The Book of Fires will appeal to readers of Geraldine Brooks, Sarah Waters, Sheri Holman, and Michel Faber. -- Pamela Dorman Books/Viking


When I first heard about THE BOOK OF FIRES by Jane Borodale, my interest was definitely sparked. The book was being touted as "reminiscent of YEAR OF WONDERS, a captivating debut novel of fireworks, fortune, and a young woman's redemption." I absolutely adored YEAR OF WONDERS so it's pretty safe to say that I was expecting to be really "wowed" with this book. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to YEAR OF WONDERS for me; however, I still really enjoyed this novel.

I have to admit that it took me awhile to become attached to the character of seventeen year-old Agnes. The story begins when Agnes is living in the English country with her poor and hungry family. She finds herself pregnant with an unwanted child and decides to escape to London to save her family from her troubles. It's not that my heart didn't go out to Agnes for her situation. I just think I was having a hard time getting used to the author's descriptive writing style. The first section of the book was filled with very detailed descriptions of the countryside, and I found myself wanting more character development of Agnes.

Having said that, once Agnes arrived in London, I really began to enjoy this story. Either I had become used to the author's writing style by then, or the action and dialogue made the book's pace much more to my liking. I appreciated seeing Agnes apprentice under Blacklock and learn the art of making fireworks; and I really enjoyed the historical aspect of the story.

I've read a few reviews that said the reader had problems with Agnes and some of her actions -- that they never really thought she was all that believable. I guess I missed out on that! When Agnes arrived in London, she decided to hide her pregnancy. Even though she was getting bigger each month, it appeared that no one in the household realized that she was pregnant (even though people in the stores kept looking at her stomach.) That part of the story didn't bother me at all -- maybe because I had a co-worker who didn't realize her daughter was pregnant until a few days before she delivered (yes, truth can be stranger than fiction.) I actually just felt bad for Agnes because she was so naive and obviously in way over her head.

Agnes was first in denial of the pregnancy; and then once she realized she had to "do something," she tried to lure a man into marrying her. When that didn't work, she eventually tried to abort the baby at a very late stage. I don't think the seventeen year-old Agnes was very worldly to say the least, and I felt as if her actions were possible for a desperate teenager. Although I was definitely frustrated by some of her actions (and even thought she was stupid at times), I thought Agnes did the best she could. She was just a young girl who had left everything she had ever known -- her home and family -- because she felt as if she had no choice. My heart just went out to Agnes because she was so alone and had to keep so many secrets.

I thought this book just kept getting better and better the more I read. I thought Agnes' and Blacklock's relationship was extremely interesting on many different levels. I think Blacklock appreciated Agnes because she had "nimble fingers" and was a quick study on the making of fireworks; however, I also think there was an connection between them because they both were lonely and desperate. I also really enjoyed the ending of the book. There were a few surprises thrown in, and I thought by the end of the story that Agnes had actually grown up and found her way (even if she had a little help.)

THE BOOK OF FIRES is Ms. Borodale's first novel, and I think it's a very impressive start. I am definitely looking forward to her future books because I do think she has a talent for weaving an interesting story. I also thought she did a great job with the historical elements of the story. If you'd like to learn more about Ms. Borodale, you can read this interview. In addition, you might want to check out her essay on the inspiration behind this novel.

THE BOOK OF FIRES is filled with all of the elements that would make it a terrific book club selection. There is an interesting storyline, intriguing characters, and enough ethical dilemmas to discuss. I have a feeling that there will be a some controversy surrounding the character of Agnes (as well as many of her actions); and anytime there is disagreement about a character, I find that it makes for a terrific meeting! There is a reading guide available which delves more deeply into topics including the book's symbolism, characters' actions, secrets, guilt, redemption, and ethics/morals. I guarantee that there won't be a shortage of things to talk about.

I almost think it was unfair for THE BOOK OF FIRES to be compared to YEAR OF WONDERS because it set the reader's expectations so high. THE BOOK OF FIRES was an interesting novel in its own right, and I definitely recommend it to lovers of historical fiction. I know if I had gone into the book just expecting a good story, I would have really appreciated the novel rather than feeling a little let down.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.

And now for the giveaway... the publisher has graciously agreed to giveaway two copies of THE BOOK OF FIRES. To enter, just leave a comment with a valid email address. The contest will be open until February 9th at 11:59 p.m ET, and I will notify the winners the following day. Giveaway is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only -- no p.o. boxes please! Good luck!

84 comments:

Linda Henderson said...

This definitely sounds like an interesting book. I would be very curious to read it.

seriousreader at live dot com

Aik said...

I'd love to read this book! Thanks!

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Heather said...

Oooo! You had me at "reminiscent of Year of Wonders!" This sounds amazing, I'd love to win a copy! Thank you!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I first caught wind of this book when someone featured it on Cover Attraction. I think it sounds wonderful, and wouldn't have the expectations because I haven't read the first book. Please enter me! rnawrot at cfl dot rr dot com

Beth F said...

Great review -- but go read mine (up today too). I was sucked in from paragraph 1. I loved her writing style! But I agree that I thought Agnes was believable -- especially in the context of her upbringing and the time period.

bermudaonion said...

Okay, between your review and Candace's comment, I'm in. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

Carol W. said...

The reviews are enticing. Please enter me in the giveaway.

wolfcarol451(at)gmail(dot)com

amanda18228 said...

I would love to win this book.
amandarwest at gmaildotcom

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love that about your interest being "sparked" about this book involving fireworks! It sure sounds interesting to me; please enter me!

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

Michelle said...

I've read some great reviews of this book, and I'd love to win a copy.

michellemsherman(at)gmail(dot)com

Linda said...

I've been reading great things about this book. I'm so glad you are offering a giveaway. Thanks.

michelleerin said...

Great review. Thanks for the giveaway.

michelle at mybooksmylife dot com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, doll. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you!

Melanie said...

My book club just finished discussing Year of Wonders. Part of our discussion revolved around the things that we felt were somehwat unlikely for our heroine of the time. My group loved the book, so I'm sure they would enjoy this one too.

Amy said...

I have been interested in this book for a while and, since I haven't read The Book of Wonders,I'm not comparing it! I love the cover too! Please include me in your giveaway!

Thank you!

~ Amy
Aimala127 AT gmail DOT com

The Kool-Aid Mom said...

Well, since I've never read The Wonder Years (though it does reside somewhere on Mt. TBR), I won't have to worry about high expectations :-) I like the cover, and I think the story sounds intriguing. I hadn't thought about it as a club book, but I can see your point. There's something for everyone to love and hate and debate ;-)

ibetnoonehasthisdamnid@yahoo.com

Debbie Rodgers said...

I love fireworks and this book sounds fascinating. Thanks for the chance to win.

tatamagouche AT netbundle DOT ca

Irene said...

This is on my TBR/wishlist! Would love to win a copy. Thank you.



cyeates AT nycap DOT rr DOT com

Kathryn said...

The Book of Fires sounds like a delightful read. I'd love to win a copy!

rkhemstead@genext.net

Thanks!

Kathryn

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

Two recommendations in one day!! Gotta be a good one!

Kristen said...

I've seen this one around and wanted to get my hands on it. :-)

whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

Oops -- forgot the email for entry:
melmccurdy@sbcglobal.net

Becca said...

Please enter me!

Thanks
rebecca.bradeen(at)verizon(dot)net

carolsnotebook said...

I've read a couple of reviews of this one and think I would really enjoy it. Thanks for entering me.

carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com

Chèli said...

Please enter me!

cyderryATyahooDOTcom
Chèli
Cheli's Shelves

Sandra K321 said...

I have seen mixed reviews on this book but I would really like to read it because of the time period it is set in and the location. Thanks.
seknobloch(at)gmail(dot)com

nomadreader said...

I've read mixed reviews, but I still really want to read it. I'd love to win!

nomadreaderblog (at) g mail

Bonnie M. said...

This book sounds great. Atmospheric, deals with an old time period, interesting premise. I'm sold.

wakeupangel at gmail dot com

decklededges said...

This sounds very interesting. Please enter me!
decklededgesblog at gmail dot com

Simply Stacie said...

Please count me in.

simplystacieblog at gmail dot com

baileysandbooks said...

Please enter me:
baileysandbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks!

Jo-Jo said...

I would love a chance to win this one Julie!
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

mindy said...

sounds like a great read thanks for the giveaway minsthins at optonline dot net

Benita said...

I'd love to read this book. Thanks for the terrific review.

bgcchs(at)yahoo(dot)com

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Thanks for the great review and the giveaway.

fitz12383(at)hotmail(dot)com

Mary said...

I've read only good reviews of this book and would love to read it.

mamie316(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

skkorman said...

Sounds like a great read—please enter me to win! Thanks!!

skkorman@bellsouth.net

mariag said...

Sounds like a good one.
Please count me in.

fmlj94 at yahoo dot com

Katrina said...

looks like a great read!

ykatrina at hotmail dot com

holdenj said...

What a nice review. I think it looks really good and Agnes' apprenticeship sure sounds interesting for the time period. Thanks for the chance to win!
JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

Emily said...

I would love to read this book! Enter me please.

emily DOT wittenberg @gmail.com

THANKS!

Rachel said...

Thanks for the giveaway!

Rachelhwallen@gmail.com

Carrie said...

I just added this to my to-read list last week - would love to win a copy!

nnjmom at yahoo dot com

Sandee61 said...

Please add my name to your giveaway, thank you. I'd love to read this book..it sounds really good and I love historical fiction.

Sandee61

Muzzley56[at]aol[dot]com

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

This one sounds so good. I added it to my list and I'd definitely love to win a copy!

je2kids(at)yahoo(dot)com

Shanda said...

Looks great! I would love to read it.
stitchdiva(at)live(dot)com

Nickolay said...

This sounds like a awesome book. Thanks for the chance

jason(at)allworldautomotive(dot)com

FrankSandy said...

Please enter me. walkerd@primus.ca

dsandyboy said...

Count me in.

dsandyboy@gmail.com

Just Mom said...

This sounds good, please enter me.
theroundfile at live dot com

Jasmyn said...

Please enter me. This book is on my wishlist.

jasmyn9[at]hotmail[dot]com

Jaime said...

sounds very interesting, would love to read
copperllama at yahoo dot com

stacybuckeye said...

Please enter me!
stacybooks at yahoo

a real librarian said...

I'd love to read this! thanks for the chance to win!!

areallibrarian[at]gmail[dot]com

Chip said...

Love to lose myself in books. This one sounds great.

chipdip2010(at)hotmail(dot)com

Teresa said...

Sounds like a good read!
mstlee2000 @ hotmail.com

ruthhill74 said...

Sounds good. My e-mail is ruthaw_1974@yahoo.com

ruthhill74 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This sounds wonderful! Please include me in this giveaway :)

journey through books @ gmail dot com

Emma said...

THE BOOK OF FIRES sounds wonderful.Please enter me in the giveaway.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.Thank you.

Beth (BBRB) said...

This looks great! Please enter me!

BethsBookReviewBlog AT gmail DOT com

Margie said...

Thanks for the giveaway. I'd like to read this one.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Nicole said...

This book sounds really good. I would love to read it!

choateorama(at)gmail(dot)com

Laura said...

I would love to read this. Thanks for the giveaway.

Laura.Adams@ky.gov

southernmatrix said...

Have had my eye on this one...libbysutherland46 at(gmaildot com)

Denny, Alaska said...

This sounds like a good read! Thanks for entering my name.

denny(dot)gill(at)gmail(dot)com

Mystica said...

I read a review of this earlier on and was intrigued. Please count me in.


mystica123athotmaildotcom

kathy said...

Definitely interested in this one , please enter me .Thank you.

Anita Yancey said...

Sounds very interesting to me. I would really enjoy reading this book. Please enter me. Thanks!

ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

Deb said...

Looks like a great book!

deborah150 at hotmail dot com

Jolee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jolee said...

very interesting sounding. joleehamlin@comcast.net

Jolee said...

very interesting sounding. joleehamlin@comcast.net

JoanneR said...

Am a follower. Thank you for the opportunity to win this book!
joannereynolds(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

Allison said...

Please enter me.
allygotts567 at hotmail dot com

ellie said...

Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the giveaway.
eswright18 at gmail dot com

J.T. Oldfield said...

Please enter me! :)

j.t.oldfield[at]gmail.com

boehmek said...

I found your blog through a search for "One Thousand White Women". This book sounds interesting as well! Thanks for offering it for a giveaway.

Tara said...

I love your reviews! This book sounds great.

boomdier181 AT gmail DOT com

Sue said...

I'd love it! Thanks for sharing.

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

Sarah E said...

Please enter me in this giveaway!

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

kristinemarie7 said...

I would like to enter. Thanks!
kristinemarie7 at gmail.com

CherylS22 said...

You've piqued my interest. Please count me in!
Thanks ~ megalon22 at yahoo dot com

Cheryl F. {The Lucky Ladybug} said...

I'd love to read this :) *Thanks* for the giveaway!
theluckyladybug[at]gmail[dot]com