For many of our members, this was their first encounter into the mind of Tracy Chevalier, so does she live up to her reputation? Unfortunately, perhaps this wasn’t the best of her books to get acquainted with Ms Chevalier. Many of the members present didn’t finish the book and felt that she was just going through the motions. There was no story line as such, nothing actually happened and I compared it to walking through treacle. However, you couldn’t dislike the book, it was after all an easy read, but the whole pretense of it being based around a William Blake poem just didn’t work. I asked if it would have been better if we had known Blake’s work a little better but after some nifty google surfing, Jo read out the poem the book was based on and we just couldn’t see the comparison between the two.
However, the one thing that I love about the book club is that there are so many different interpretations of what we read. One member loved the ending, which showed that Maggie was afraid of the country so went home to what she felt secure with. The contrast between the town and country showed the difference in attitudes to life and trust.
With regards to the characters in the novel, the general consensus was that we felt that they weren’t believable enough. However the character of Philip Astley tended to over shadow the rest of the people in the book and we felt that after the author had researched and found the real life character, she almost cast aside everyone else in order to add him in. The character of Blake in the book was possibly chosen to make him stand out from the others, as he was so different.
Visually we felt that the book delivered with regards to conjuring up what the author was trying to achieve and the fact that the book was segregated into three communities; country, town and the circus to show the contrasts between people living within those areas and how they interacted with one another.
The overall feeling about the author was that she was the historic chic lit and although we all said that we wouldn’t rush out to buy another of her novels, if one was recommended to us then we would read it.