Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

1. First lines 2. Publisher: Penguin 3. Royal York Crescent in Bristol. Chaps the idol CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons 4. The Avon Gorge, Bristol. Francis Danby [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 5. Francisco Goya [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 6. Birdcage Walk Copyright Derek Harper CC BY-SA 2.0

This book was okay.

Atmospheric and foreboding

Quotes from the book:
  • … once I have brought a buyer to that point, I know I can tip him over. I am a wrestler and I use my opponent’s momentum to make him fall. But if he will not come to the point, then I am powerless. I cannot very well lift the money out of his purse.”
  • “[a guillotine] works very smoothly. We are ingenious in our cruelties. There is no need for an executioner to face his victim or huff with strain as he wields his axe. No more botched killings, because the machine will always be precise.”
Plot summary: John Diner Tredevant is a property developer in 18th Century Bristol. His vision is to build a row of terrace houses above the Avon Gorge in Bristol. However, the French Revolution causes political unrest which threatens his plans. The story is told by his new wife Lizzie who becomes increasingly disturbed by his controlling behaviour, and she eventually finds out the secret about his first wife.
Other editions:
Grove Atlantic                                    Penguin

  • “this is an engaging and absorbing read” Full review: Historical Novel Society
  • “Touching as they sometimes are, the relentlessly domestic preoccupations of much of the middle part of the novel lack urgency, causing the pace to sag. That said, the novel offers many delights. Dunmore could not write an ugly sentence if she tried and she has an extraordinary gift for taking the ordinary and familiar and rendering them new.” Full review: The Guardian



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