Book of fires by Jane Borodale

A book which negotiates clichés and pitfalls with surprising dexterity. The heroine of the book lives with her family in 18th Century Sussex and falls pregnant. Reluctant to bring shame on her family, she finds an opportunity to run away to London, where she is taken on as an apprentice to a firework maker.

Dreading being found out as her pregnancy progresses, she makes increasingly desperate plans to redeem herself, but each fails one by one. Gripped by the story, I couldn’t see any way out for her- and I was utterly surprised by the ending. Well worth a read if you enjoy historical fiction, and this début novel makes this an author to look out for.

Reserve a copy here.

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One response

  1. We first meet Agnes Trussel as a poorly educated young woman living in a rural location in Sussex in mid 18th century, largely accepting of what life may hold for her, until she is subjected to the attentions of an uncouth loutish youth in her village, leading to an unwanted pregnancy. Circumstances present her with a chance to run away to London when she discovers some gold coins at the home of a dead neighbour, a discovery that troubles her conscience.

    We follow her adventures, the people she meets along the way, until on a rainy, wind-swept night she arrives at the door of one John Blacklock, pyrotechnist, in London. She is employed by him to help with his business of making fireworks, to the very obvious displeasure of his housekeeper and housemaid. As her pregnancy develops, she struggles to keep it hidden, but displays a real aptitude for making fireworks. She makes plans to try and protect her honour, but circumstances thwart her efforts to gain respectability until a quite unforeseen series of events sees her married and continuing the fireworks business.

    Jane Borodale has skilfully woven a word picture of life in the mid 18th Century, so real that one almost feels one is there with Agnes. I heard this as an audio book, and a special mention is also due for Annie Aldington for her sympathetic narration of the tale.

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