In 18th century England, Thomas Kellaway and his family decide to move to London to put behind some painful memories of losing their son and try to take advantage of an opportunity with the circus. Kellaway and his son Jem are carpenters, specializing in making chairs. They end up living next door to William Blake, a poet and engraver that sympathizes with the French. Jem makes friends with another girl his age, Maggie, who has lived in London her entire life and is the daugther of a wheeler and dealer who tries to sell anything to anyone.
This book doesn't give an in-depth look at Blake's life, as he plays a secondary character, but we do learn a little of his poetry and perhaps of its origins. As far as character studies go from usual Chevalier books, I feel like we only skimmed the surface with Blake. I didn't really learn much about him aside from the fact that he engraved, he wrote poems, he was on the French's side, and he seemed to like children. More details would have been appreciated.
The lack of a strong theme was a big problem for this story. It didn't seem to be about much, which made it a slow and rather unsatisfying read. This is my least favourite book that I've read by Chevalier so far.
First Line: "There was something humiliating about waiting in a cart on a busy London street with all your possessions stacked around you, on show to the curious public."