Derby Day by D J Taylor

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Derby Day by D J Taylor

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: A bunch of disparate individuals are linked to a rather enigmatic horse called Tiberius. There are those who are dead set on him winning the forthcoming prestigious Derby - and then there are others with their own, very secret agenda.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0701183585

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I read (and reviewed) Taylor's Ask Alice and took to Taylor's style straight away. Is this one going to be as good - or even better? Time to find out ... To set the tone we first meet a couple of no-gooders as they plot and scheme and it's all about horses and the Derby. And by degrees, Taylor introduces his main characters, chapter by chapter, to his readers. As this novel runs to over 400 pages, there's plenty of time for flesh to be heaped upon the bones of many of these characters. So, for example, we have a rather cold and calculating daughter living with her elderly father who appear right at the start of the novel. I got the sense that things were about to happen - and they certainly did. There's a strong sense of emotions just bubbling under the surface with this duo.

Rebecca, the daughter is currently unmarried but she doesn't remain single for too long. Although her disposition to my mind is less than charming, shall we say, a certain Mr Happerton comes along and seems to sweep her off her dainty feet. We learn that his background and character are both a bit suss - but for some reason that doesn't seem to matter a jot. Not to Rebecca at any rate. Why?

And the language used by Taylor is of its time. Victorian, very proper, very charming and with lots of flowing sentences. This style is one that I particularly like and I had no trouble getting into the story and becoming involved and interested in the characters. Even more so, once I'm in about 50 pages or so, then I don't really want to put it down.

We also travel to the rural, flat landscape of Lincolnshire so that we can meet up with some more of Taylor's characters. There's a hard-working and rather intensive widower living in some isolation with his somewhat strange daughter. Yes, yet another father/daughter combo. Taylor paints an excellent picture of the landscape which is in sharp contrast to the bustling streets and leafy city squares of London. And the unlikely connection? Tiberius. We hear how he becomes the property of Mr Davenant of Lincolnshire. But there are plenty of interested parties in this horse. It's seen to have massive potential as a racehorse and big money could be made. The word is out around the country and even beyond these shores.

In the course of the narrative we meet quite a diverse bunch of people: rich and poor, clever and dim-witted, young and old etc. And throughout is the thread of this majestic beast. What is also excellent is Taylor's build-up to the great day of the race. Terrific stuff which I thoroughly enjoyed.

In my opinion all of the characters portrayed are believable and some come across as larger than life. For example, I found it hard to forget or dismiss the cold-fish Rebecca and when one of her engrossing chapters came around, I was keen to find out what she was up to. And considering she's a lady of leisure, she gets up to rather a lot. She is the complete opposite of her husband which makes them an intriguing couple.

The front cover blurb is spot-on when it says that this book is A Victorian Mystery. It's also enjoyable, intelligent and thoroughly entertaining and no, you don't need to have a love of horse or racing to fully enjoy it. As we gallop (sorry about that) towards the final pages, there's a great crescendo of action which doesn't fail to deliver. Highly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try Ask Alice also by D J Taylor.

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Booklists.jpg Derby Day by D J Taylor is in the Man Booker Prize 2011.


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