I am afraid I am a little late with this post but almost a couple of weeks ago, we got together for one of our quarterly book club meetings. The book we were discussing was The American Boy by Andrew Taylor. Set in 1819, it is a historical crime novel which mixes fiction with fact: the eponymous boy is Edgar Allen Poe who was indeed adopted by a British couple and lived in London for a time. However, the events of the book are most certainly fictional and told in such a fresh way that we were all in agreement that the book was most enjoyable! All but one of us was very taken with it – one in our midst was very happy right up until a particular point in the book after which the book fell out of favour. The fact that Poe was a character of the book was both inconsequential to the story and also intriguing, adding to the air of mystery.
The story follows a young tutor, Thomas Shield, who teaches the young Edgar and his friend Charles Frant. Shield is drawn to Frant’s beautiful but vulnerable mother and a series of events including a brutal murder entangle Shield with the Frant extended family. We were (almost) all in agreement that the story rollicked along at a fantastic pace and despite it occasionally feeling a tiny bit contrived (to me at least – Shield kept finding himself where the action was which was convenient since the story was told in the first person from his perspective!), we found it an engrossing read. It was great to have had another book in our discussion which was liked by the majority – we were starting to fear that we were only going to pick contentious and unlikeable books (or at least, books with unlikeable characters)!
Here are just a few comments from those that had read the book:
The American Boy was a real page turner that I couldn’t put down until I’d finished it.
Zoe W (the member who recommended the book)
I really enjoyed this book. I love crime books but the historical setting make it so much more interesting.
A meandering tale but it needs a differently constructed ending.
I really liked Sophia Frant; she was the only character that didn’t seem to have an agenda. She dealt with all that happened to her with dignity.
A gripping read with an authentic narrator who makes you forget you are reading a book.
Our next book club meeting will be on 1st May and we will be reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak so you plenty of time to get reading and join us for our next book chat. Here is the Amazon blurb to whet your appetite:
It is 1939. In Nazi Germany, the country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier – and will become busier still. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed forever when she picks up a single object, abandoned in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, and this is her first act of book thievery. So begins Liesel’s love affair with books and words, and soon she is stealing from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library . . . wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times, and when Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, nothing will ever be the same again. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.