Hindsight is a fickle friend – Book review for NetGalley – The Alphabet of Heart’s Desire by Brian Keaney

36258491.jpg The Alphabet of Heart’s Desire

A visitor calls with a gift and a message from the past in this literary, historical novel. In 1802 Thomas de Quincey, a young man from a comfortable middle-class background who would go on to become one of the most celebrated writers of his day, collapsed on Oxford Street and was discovered by a teenage prostitute who brought him back to her room and nursed him to health. It was the beginning of a relationship that would introduce Thomas to a world just below the surface of London’s polite society, where pleasure was a tradeable commodity and opium could seem the only relief from poverty. Yet it is also a world where love might blossom, and goodness survive. The lives of a street girl, an aspiring writer, and a freed slave cross and re-cross the slums of London in this novel about the birth of passion, the burden of addiction, and the consolations of literature


Hindsight is a wonderful thing when used in moderation. When it comes to literary fiction, however, hindsight can prove to be a very fickle thing.

The subject of my MA, Erast Fandorin (Boris Akunin’s creation) was created out of hindsight and literary kaleidoscope of recognizable characters, events and places. He, Erast, was wonderful, marvelous, interesting. He spoke the language of the times and he dressed accordingly. He contemplated inwardly and mediated silently.

Thomas, Anne and Adbul of The Alphabet all speak the same language, the language of the author. A street girl can not speak and think the same way as genteel young man or slave from unknown island. They can not all reminisce and contemplate in the same words, tone and thought structure.

A street girl can look for love, can ache for love and can even find it but there is not way she will be talking about it as if she is Jane Austen re-incarnate.

Personally, I found this of-putting. Also, the story itself feels too thought through and made up. It is as if somebody just tried to make ‘olden times’ out of what he or she thought would be appropriate. All the ingredients were there but the dish turned out badly.

The whole time I had to push myself to finish this book for the sake of NetGalley and my commitment to writing reviews. I found the whole story too much, too old, too predictable and too badly piled together. There is no ending. There is no point.

Two stars at the most.

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