Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fires of London by Janice Law

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: April 24, 2013

A killer takes refuge in the blacked-out streets of wartime London, upending the world of one of Britain’s greatest painters in this chilling and captivating reimagining of the life of Francis Bacon. Francis Bacon walks the streets of World War II London, employed as a warden for the ARP to keep watch for activities that might tip off the Axis powers. Before the war, Bacon had travelled to Berlin and Paris picking up snatches of culture from a succession of middle-aged men charmed by his young face. Known for his flamboyant personal life and expensive taste, Bacon has returned home to live with his former nanny—who’s also his biggest collector—in a cramped bohemian apartment. But one night, death intrudes on his after-hours paradise. When a young man is found dead in the park, his head smashed in, Bacon and the rest of London’s demimonde realize that they have much more to fear than the faraway scream of war.

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I think I might have liked Janice Law's Fires of London more if I had any sort of appreciation for Francis Bacon... that's Francis Bacon the artist, not the philosopher, who is a different person entirely, but that's beside the point. My sincere apologies for rambling friends, time to redirect back to my review.

Not knowing much about the man, I spent a lot of time looking up information on Bacon and his work while reading Law's fiction and in so doing learned two very valuable bits of information. First, while background reading will give you a better understanding of the spirit in which this story is written, it is an entirely unnecessary exercise. And second, I'm an uncultured heathen and have absolutely no business reflecting the merits figurative art be it visual or literary.

I know you're asking what the hell I am getting at, but I promise I have a point. I find most of Bacon's work odd and the rest of it downright creepy. The emotionally raw surrealist imagery doesn't work for me on the canvas so it should come as no surprise that I find it difficult to rouse much enthusiasm when I see it so perfectly recreated under Law's pen. It reads like one, but that isn't an insult. There is literary genius on every page of this period mystery, clearly evident in Law's ability to channel the same disturbing sensations that characterize Bacon's art through her manipulation of language and prose and even I, heathen that I am, can appreciate that.

I tip my hat to Law's creativity and artistry - conceptually Fires of London is a remarkable read. I only wish I were able to savor its entertainment value in the same capacity, but try as I might I couldn't get into this one. I say again, the fault here is entirely my own so please, take my comments with a healthy degree of salt. Much to my dismay I was simply the wrong reader for this one.


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I'm out to paint the rabbit hole full up to the top with violence and absurdity.
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