ELIZABETH GARNER was born in Cheshire, England, and now lives in Oxford. The Ingenious Edgar Jones is her American debut. From the Hardcover edition.
Set in Oxford in the 1850s, this coming-of-age story looks at the son of an Oxford University night porter with academic ambitions for his heir. Instead, "oddness" and possible dyslexia steer young Edgar Jones to apprentice with a domineering blacksmith. Plucked from the forge by a rebellious Oxford anatomy professor, Edgar soon finds himself torn between his benefactor's progressive ideas about natural history and the traditional beliefs of his father. The succinct plot doesn't help rein in character development and tone, which are all over the map: instead of bright and unconventional, Edgar frequently comes across as antisocial, and his initially doting father turns tyrannical as soon as he finds Edgar struggling to copy out his assigned Bible verses. The middle third is richly drawn-almost Dickensian-but a late lunge into magical realism makes for an unsatisfactory ending. Though enlivened by obvious love for Oxford, memorable villains and a well-captured sense of science's ability to awe and baffle, inconsistencies will frustrate adult readers; historically curious young adults may be more forgiving. (May) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
"Elizabeth Garner's American debut is ingenuity itself, a winner. I
--Gregory Maguire, bestselling author of Wicked and A Lion Among Men From the Hardcover edition.