When it comes to historical fiction, few authors today can touch Tracy Chevalier. In this work, she's chosen to focus on two years in the life of English poet and writer William Blake. The French Revolution is entering its bloodiest phase, and reaction in England is severe: to protect the monarchy (even in the form of George III, not the most effective ruler the country had ever suffered under) at all costs. As history shows, this kind of status-quo-at-any-cost reaction leads to its own form of repression (think of the McCarthy era, or our Japanese internment of WW2). The story, told from the point of view of the Kellaways, a countryside family newly arrived in London. Soon swept into the orbit of the famous Astley's Circus, all the Kellaways, plus their impecunious neighbors the Butterworths, are affected by the upheaval across the channel, the English reaction, and the almost otherworldly writings of their neighbor William Blake. A 4, with mesmerizing detail that evokes this turbulent era. A fine choice for a book group, as all Chevalier's books are.
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