Author: Bruce Holsinger
Title: A Burnable Book
Narrator: Simon Vance
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2014)
This historical novel is set in post-plague London during the reign of Richard II. The key character in this novel is John Gower, a real life poet who Holsinger has also earning his keep by trading in information and intrigue. The events of the novel kick off when Gower’s friend Geoffrey Chaucer (Gower and Chaucer were friends in real life too) asks Gower to find a book that has prophecies of the deaths of English kings that would be dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands. Gower’s investigations take him into brothels and the criminal underworld of London which Holsinger describes in all their gritty details. Too often Holsinger tells instead of shows, so the narrative gets paused while a character explains exactly what has happened. The plot gets too complicated as loose threads are tied off too soon and new contrivances are added to keep the narrative moving. Holsinger is good at getting the feel of medieval London and has a few good ideas, but the book never lives up to its ambition.
Recommended books: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland, The Plague Tales by Ann Benson, and Dr. Johnson’s London by Liza Picard