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.
Borodale's enjoyable debut is the story of Agnes Trussel, who, in 1752, leaves the poverty-stricken countryside for London, intent on hiding her unwanted pregnancy and making a better life. On her journey, she meets Lettice Talbot, a beautiful young woman who promises to help her, but when Agnes loses track of her benefactress, she ends up as the apprentice to Mr. Blacklock, a moody pyrotechnist who is mourning his dead wife as he attempts to bring color to fireworks. Despite her difficulties with Blacklock's other domestic staff, Agnes grows to feel at home in London and enjoys her work, but she is constantly threatened by the imminent exposure of her pregnancy and haunted by the guilt of her theft of the stash of coins that funded her trip. This menacing mood is Borodale's greatest achievement: from the omnipresent hangings to the economic knife-edge upon which the working class lives, she builds a dark but human world that makes Agnes's plight deeply sympathetic. When the story is neatly tied up with an unexpected resolution to Agnes's problems, it's surprising but not unbelievable, capping off a delightfully diverting book.
The Book of Fires