Brought up in Sussex, seventeen year old Agnes Trussel is pregnant with an unwanted child. After her neighbour dies, she steals her savings and escapes to London.
She meets Lettice Talbot on her travels, who assures her she will help her in London. However Agnes gets lost in the chaotic city and ends up working for John Blacklock. He is a firework-maker and she ends up as his first female assistant.
As time progresses it becomes difficult to conceal the pregnancy. During this time she meets Cornelius Soul, gunpowder seller. Both are desperate to leave the huge city and she hatches a plan with him to leave. Intriguingly John Blacklock disapproves of Cornelius Soul for reasons that are not immediately clear.
It’s interesting to read about the beginnings of pyrotechnics and as a history lover I particularly liked this aspect of the book.
The author, Jane Borodale is an acclaimed writer and has been shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers.
Ultimately the theme of the book is about a woman trying to make her way in the world. A world that is not accepting and we glimpse the struggles she faces. There are a few twists in the book and the ending was not what I expected.
There is no doubt the period and subject matter is well researched.
Whilst I thought the book was well written I found it drawn out in certain parts and I would not say it’s a page turner.