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Black Hearts in Battersea (1964)

de Joan Aiken

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9731916,455 (4.17)135
Simon, the foundling from the earlier book, The wolves of Willoughy Chase, arrives in London to meet an old friend and pursue the study of painting, but he finds himself in the middle of a wicked crew's plan to overthrow good King James and the Duke and Duchess of Battersea.
  1. 30
    Fly by Night de Frances Hardinge (Sakerfalcon)
    Sakerfalcon: Similar period settings and society, with intelligent, unscrupulous heroines. Both books are exciting, subversive and extremely well-written.
  2. 20
    The Borribles de Michael de Larrabeiti (FrederFrederson)
  3. 02
    The Bad Beginning de Lemony Snicket (Bjace)
    Bjace: Same sort of children-in-peril series.
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I see from looking around that Joan Aiken has authored quite a few books. This gives me great pleasure, as I’ve read probably a half dozen of them to this point and have loved them all. Her characters are full of spirit and vigor, the action is unrelenting (if a little zany and unlikely), and her writing is so fantastic (and also replete with either a real or imagined London vernacular that is not quite comprehensible and yet relatively easy to have a sense of).

The plot starts out relatively straight forward - Simon comes to London to study with a friend and finds himself knee deep in mystery and intrigue, and it all gets twisty from there. The Twite family reminded me very much of the Thenardiers of Les Miserables. The plot develops curves at a rapid and at times unrelenting pace, and yet is not difficult to follow, and (almost) all is satisfactorily resolved at the end. It’s a charmer of a book, and I can’t wait to continue the series. ( )
  Annrosenzweig | Oct 15, 2021 |
As I read this I kept thinking it was wrong and the history was all out of place and things just didn't make sense. Then I reached the notes at the end that told, me, yes, indeed, it was ahistorical and this time did not exist. That didn't really make up for the convoluted plot that took ages to develop and then just fizzled out in a few pages. Then I vaguely recalled in my childhood reading that her other books has the same problem. Oh well, it was diverting for a time, even if fantastical.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2020 |
Book two in the alternate history kids' series that started with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

After hearing more than one person praise these books as bone fide children's classics, I was quite underwhelmed by the first volume, which I found readable but pretty unmemorable. I was told, though, that this one was better, and I do think that's true. I still don't quite see why it's rated as such a classic -- I think maybe you just have to read it at the right age to fully appreciate it and imprint on it -- but it is an entirely decent kids' story. There's a mysterious disappearance, an insurrectionist plot, some adventures at sea, and the revelation of several true identities. All of which admittedly feels quite contrived, and the main mysteries are wrapped up a bit abruptly, but I guess that's hardly unusual for this sort of thing. It's entertaining enough, anyway, and I'm sure I would have found it fairly exciting if I'd read it as a child. (And quite how I missed out on this series as a kid, I'm not remotely sure.) It's also got some fun and colorful dialog, which may or may not be historically accurate, but is rather charming, anyway. ( )
  bragan | Nov 16, 2019 |
This was one of my absolute favorite books growing up. Rereading it as an adult was an interesting experience. The writing style is still lovely, the characters engaging (especially Sophie, the extremely self-possessed lady's maid who keeps saving the day through the creative deployment of a tapestry she's embroidering; and Dido Twite, the bratty, neglected little girl who becomes the protagonist in later books), and there's plenty of excitement and humor.

Otoh, the number of coincidences in this book--both plot-propelling and otherwise--is completely ridiculous. They seemed unremarkable to me as a child, but I confess I rolled my eyes more than once rereading the book now. And the classism, which also went over my head as a child, is similarly blatant. As one illustrative example: There's a scene where two teenaged boys and Dido are on a sinking ship. Teenaged boy #1, the protagonist, gets the second boy secured to a barrel and gives him an oar and lowers him into the water first, since, as he says, "you're a Duke's nevvy." And then the protagonist and little Dido--the latter of whom can't swim--make do with a broken spar that they both cling to, as that's all that's left!

Not-so-minor quibbles aside, however, I did enjoy rereading the book, though I don't know how appealing it would be if it weren't so colored by nostalgia for me.

Final note: I recommend reading an edition illustrated by Robin Jacques, if you can find one. I was surprised when googling his name just how many of his illustrations--from this series and from numerous other books--had made a deep and lasting impression on me, and I think his art really enhances the story. ( )
  jain | Aug 26, 2019 |
The first thing Ms. Aiken wants you to know about Black Hearts in Battersea is that it takes place in the same time period as The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, near the beginning of the nineteenth century. The second thing you should know is that some characters in Wolves are also in Black Hearts. Simon, an orphan who lived in a cave and came to the rescue in Wolves is the main character in Black Hearts. This time Simon is looking for his friend, Dr. Gabriel Field who has mysteriously disappeared after inviting Simon to come study art with him. A mystery ensues when everyone Simon encounters denies even knowing Dr. Field. It is as if the man never existed in Battersea. While waiting for Dr. Field to reappear Simon befriends the Duke of Battersea, gets a job with a blacksmith, and rooms with a suspicious peasant family. It's a fun tale of adventure, especially after Simon meets bedraggled Dido who gets him in all sorts of trouble. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jul 16, 2018 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Aiken, Joanautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Gorey, EdwardAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Hess, PaulAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Jacques, RobinIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Marriott, PatIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Robertson, MarkAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Simon, the foundling from the earlier book, The wolves of Willoughy Chase, arrives in London to meet an old friend and pursue the study of painting, but he finds himself in the middle of a wicked crew's plan to overthrow good King James and the Duke and Duchess of Battersea.

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