Saturday, January 23, 2010


Jane Borodale’s first novel, THE BOOK OF FIRES, is a vivid portrait of 1750s England.  The heroine, Agnes Trussel, leads the reader from countryside squalor to a sooty, bustling London.  Part of a large family, struggling to even survive, Agnes clearly stands out from her siblings.  Her interior thoughts, expertly drawn in present tense, add insight and immediacy to the tale.  Finding herself at a crossroads, the teenage Agnes leaves the only place she has ever known via a wagon bound for London.  Relying partially on the kindness of strangers, but mostly on her own wits, Agnes arrives wet, bedraggled and desperate on the steps of a gruff man’s home, in answer a “housemaid wanted” sign in his window.  But instead of emplying her with household duties, Mr. Blacklock starts to teach her about the basic ingredients of fireworks.

Borodale’s descriptions, through Agnes’ eyes, are almost those of a synesthete.  Acrid smells intermingle with hues and textures and bring to life a gritty, difficult reality.  The writing is fresh and precise.  She strikes a balance between exposition and story that is seemingly rare among historical fiction authors.  Borodale uses an economy of language while still evoking the style of the time.

Still, the reader will have to employ some suspension of disbelief to fully enter the world which Agnes inhabits.  Her acceptance into apprenticeship at a fireworks shop is fitting to her personality, if not entirely plausible.  This is offset by the other details of class distinctions, and the unlikely ways in which they cross over.  For example, the evening when Agnes gets to view her first fireworks display at a high society party is especially touching.  The reader too has spent hours at the work bench with Agnes and is anxious to see the fruits of her labor.
This book is layered, very readable and will be particularly enjoyable to young teenage women and is an excellent foray into the world of fiction for this new novelist. 

Book: Hardcover | 5.98 x 9.01in | 368 pages | ISBN 9780670021062 | 21 Jan 2010 | Viking Adult | 18 - AND UP

More information:,,Author_1000075257,00.html

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why I Will Now Write About Books

I think I read my first book before I watched my first movie, frankly.  I remember sitting on the floor with Cat In The Hat and doing just fine until I got to the big word.  I had to ask my Mom what is was. "Something." I wasn't 3 yet.
Now I realize it is stories that I love.  And the art of storytelling.  I suppose that explains my degrees in English and Cinema Studies.  They are similar - it's just that one uses movies as its canon of literature.
When I moved away from home, the first thing I got in my new town was a library card.  I frequent used book stores.  I relish the discovery of a new author and wallow in the company and comfort of old friends.
I just bought a house.  It is funky and old.  Over the years, various owners have added on rooms here and there.  It has a bit of a meandering feel to it, but plenty of room.  I turned what would naturally be the formal dining area into a library.  The table sits in the eating area of the kitchen.

Books are more important than food.