Saturday 14 October 2017

Book Review: The Alphabet of Heart's Desire by Brian Keaney

Title: The Alphabet of Heart's Desire
Author: Brian Keaney 
Publisher: Holland House 
Publication Date: 16 November 2017 
Pages: 392
Format: eBook - EPUB
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

A visitor calls with a gift and a message from the past in this literary, historical novel. In 1802 Thomas de Quincey, a young man from a comfortable middle-class background who would go on to become one of the most celebrated writers of his day, collapsed on Oxford Street and was discovered by a teenage prostitute who brought him back to her room and nursed him to health. It was the beginning of a relationship that would introduce Thomas to a world just below the surface of London's polite society, where pleasure was a tradeable commodity and opium could seem the only relief from poverty. Yet it is also a world where love might blossom, and goodness survive. The lives of a street girl, an aspiring writer, and a freed slave cross and re-cross the slums of London in this novel about the birth of passion, the burden of addiction, and the consolations of literature. (Goodreads Synopsis)

The Alphabet of Heart's Desire is a difficult book to rate. There were many things I enjoyed: the distinctive 'voices' of the three main characters, the easy, simple flow of the prose, and the premise. However, although I enjoyed the individual storylines, they didn't come together for me. Thomas and Anne were fine, but Tuah never really seemed to fit, especially since he didn't connect fully with the other two until the end. I think, perhaps, the storytelling was too simplistic for the kind of connection Keaney was trying to achieve. Regardless, this was still a pleasant, quick historical read, so I am giving it four stars. De Quincey is an interesting figure and this work had real potential; it just doesn't quite achieve all its aims.

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