Tuesday, May 13, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Sedition by Katherine Grant

It's time for one of my occasional plugs for the Historical Novel Society. If you're a fan of historical fiction, consider joining up. In addition to a quarterly journal of reviews, they have a fantastic website and, every other year, conferences. The conferences are incredibly fun and informative--and you can meet authors, agents, editors, and readers who love the same books you do.

I contribute sometimes to the Historical Novels Review. My review for Sedition appeared in print in the May2014 issue. It was an editors' choice and can also be found online at the HNS website here. But here it is again:

As a fan of K.M. Grant’s historical fiction for children, I was eager to read her adult debut. Set in London in the late 1700s, Sedition is a darkly comic tale of music and sexual politics. Four wealthy businessmen have five marriageable daughters among them, and the fathers have decided their fortunes will buy the girls titles. The daughters, save one, are nothing special in themselves, so in order to attract the attention of eligible young lords, the fathers come up with a plot. They buy a piano, hire a teacher, and schedule a concert to which gentlemen will be invited and the girls’ talents displayed.

Everything that can go wrong does. The embittered piano maker convinces the piano teacher to seduce the five innocent girls, ruining them for marriage. The daughters prove difficult to teach. The piano teacher’s seductions don’t go quite as he’d hoped. Somehow, the men who imagine themselves in charge find themselves undermined every which way.

This is a startlingly good read. Grant, a skilled writer, makes each of the characters distinctive. She immerses the reader in late 18th-century London. The novel relies heavily on music, and when the characters sit down to play, you can practically hear the piano. It’s a wonderful story that is not as farcical as the plot outline would suggest. Underlying it all is the darkness of the sexual politics and the sex, which permeates the story. Love plays very little role, although there is an impressive love of music. And although I recommend this fascinating story, be prepared for an adult book.

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