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As the shadows lengthen over the June grass all England is heading for Epsom Downs high life and low life society beauties and Whitechapel street girls bookmakers and gypsies hawkers and acrobats punters and thieves Whole families stream along the Surrey back roads towards the greatest race of the year Hopes are high nerves are taut hats are tossed in the air this is Derby DayFor months people have been waiting and plotting for this day Even in dark November when the wind. Ahhhh Victorian novels What don t I love about them Certainly not their size Those Victorians wrote some chubby books God bless them The time period the plots I love it all Every once in a while you find a contemporary writer who can produce a Victorian novel The uincunx by Charles Palliser Fingersmith by Sarah Waters and The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber come to mind Now add to that list Derby Day by DJ Taylor The heroes of Derby Day are author DJ Taylor for writing this novel and the novel s object of desire a racehorse named Tiberius This horse will run in the coming Epsom Derby and all storylines race to that event The current owner of Tiberius Mr Davenant is in financial trouble A Mr Happerton would love to take advantage of that situation and get a hold of Tiberius for himself Happerton marries the wealthy and desirable Rebecca to gain the capitol he needs to further his villainous plans Rebecca is smarter and proactive about her life than her husband suspects and that will cost him Circling these three are the prereuisite 287 addition characters all with tantalizing agendas of their own The amount of research involved in Derby Day shows on every page Each character behaves if not with the highest hoped for moral correctness of the period then at least in keeping with the period The food the fabrics the attitudes all the incidentals of life in Victorian England are displayed with an everyday casualness that belies Derby Day having been written in the twenty first century The employment by the author of a slightly bemused above it all narrator with knowledge of all builds an intimacy between the reader and the page that helps maintain that connection with the Victorian era Taylor s starting point for Derby Day was WP Frith s wonderful panoramic painting The Derby Day This painting was originally shown at the Royal Academy in 1858 You can see the allure for Taylor There is so much going on in the painting Every inch of the crowd tells a story and highlights a class situationAmazingly every hope every dastardly deed every desperate prayer the entire sprawl of the novel does come together at the Derby Derby Day could have been 500 pages of scattershot anecdotes and description but instead the brilliance of DJ Taylor has made this novel a masterpiece of showmanship and scholarship that completely entertains

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Derby Day

Whistles through the foggy London courts the alehouses and gentlemen's clubs echo to the sound of disputed odds In Belgrave Suare old Mr Gresham is baffled by his tigerish daughter Rebecca whose intentions he cannot fathom In the clubs of St James's rakish Mr Happerton plays billiards with his crony Captain Raff while in darkest Lincolnshire sad Mr Davenant broods over his financial embarrassments and waits for his daughter's new governess Across the channel the veteran bu. I had mixed feelings about this Booker nominated novel I was initially uite excited to read it Historical fiction set in the Victorian era with a mystery thrown in What s not to like And indeed there s certainly something very mature and polished in Taylor s writing with the style approximating late Victorian writing rather closely But the similes and metaphors that were at first so entertaining with their wittiness soon grew rather tiresome as there is too much in the same style For example the sentence The rain fell in torrents around him driving into his face as he marched but it could not be said that he noticed it is good and well in itself but when the phrase it could not be said that is used a zillion times throughout the book it loses its effect Another trick that Taylor overuses is the idea that nobody knew or only a certain someone knew but certainly not the reader no no Eg uite how long he had been there only Mr Happerton and the meek waitress knew Once he uite spoils his own effect After saying that Mr Gresham s clerk allowed Mr Happerton into the office but whether it was that he excelled in deferential small talk or merely hinted at sovereigns no one uite knew a few pages later there is a comment on The old clerk sitting in the ante room beyond with Mr Happerton s sovereign in this fist I thought nobody knew The plot is also not engaging There isn t much mystery after all and no interesting twist to save the reader s impression at the end The plot has pretensions of being complex but is actually not remarkable in any positive way The apparent complexity is due to the freuent shifting of viewpoints and relying on cheap tricks to create suspense eg a character opens a letter and reacts but the reader is not told what is in the letter Taylor also seems to switch between third person limited and omniscient perspectives rather haphazardly Mostly he seems to want to be able to refer directly to a character s thoughts and seems to switch to omniscient just to be able to make his but nobody knew sort of statements Such switching at times results in contradictions like that of Mr Happerton s sovereignThere are some interesting sparks but one wonders what their place in the novel is For example there is a short description of a circus family The vignette of a boy who pretends to lose six pence so that he can give it to his mother instead of to his drunkard of a father gives a good snapshot of the Victorian period but its vividness and lack of actual relevance to the novel serves only to distract It feels almost as if Taylor had this brilliant idea and did not want to waste it and so insisted on including it in this novel And what s this nonsense about Captain Rook and Mr Pigeon introduced towards the end of the novel to spice up the depiction of the race day The rest of the novel is written in a realistic style so the introduction of these farcical characters just feels jarringOverall there is the feeling that there is too much of the same for too long The pace is too slow and there is very little to reward the reader for his perseverance It certainly could have been improved with a great deal editing

Summary Derby Day

Rglar Mr Pardew is packing his bags to return to the consternation of the stalwart detective Captain McTurk Everywhere money jingles and plans are laid Uniting them all is the champion horse Tiberius on whose performance half a dozen destinies dependIn this rich and exuberant novel rife with the idioms of Victorian England the mysteries pile high propelling us towards the day of the great race and we wait with bated breath as the story gallops to a finish that no one expec. Much better than his novels set in the present since the faux Victorian style suits Taylor s blithely condescending sensibility But saying a character is like Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair to save on characterisation Lazy


10 thoughts on “Derby Day

  1. says:

    Aficionados of horse racing in Britain I’m not one though my dad was will tell you that there are five great events of the flat racing season in this country The St Leger The Oaks The 1000 Guineas The 2000 Guineas and the greatest of them all the Epsom Derby in British English the word is pronounced “darby” In an Afterword to this book the author indicates that his novel was partly inspired by a mid 19th century painting The Derby

  2. says:

    Ahhhh Victorian novels What don’t I love about them? Certainly not their size Those Victorians wrote some chubby books God bless them The time period the plots I love it all Every once in a while you find a co

  3. says:

    The only mystery in this book despite the billing is why I read the whole uite lengthy thing The book is structured as if it were a complex puzzle and you read it accordingly with extremely close attention to detail at the beginnin

  4. says:

    I had mixed feelings about this Booker nominated novel I was initially uite excited to read it Historical fiction set in the Victorian era with a mystery thrown in What’s not to like? And indeed there’s certainly something very mature and polished in Taylor’s writing with the style approximating late Vic

  5. says:

    I enjoyed reading this but am not uite sure what to make of it It's billed as a Victorian mystery but didn't really seem to contain many elements of a mystery to me as it's a fairly straightforward story of misdoings in the horse racing world It's written in some kind of Victorian style which I don't know enough about to talk about I don't know whether it's a pastiche or satire or something else like that It's an entertaining enou

  6. says:

    This book is written in a very fun and engaging way and you will most likely have a rollicking good time while

  7. says:

    Much better than his novels set in the present since the faux Victorian style suits Taylor’s blithely condescending sensibility But saying a character is like Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair to save on characterisation? Lazy

  8. says:

    This is a skilful and subtly ironic re working of a Victorian novel The main difference is that the plot centring round the betting and speculation on horses leading up to the Epsom Derby is tightly controlled with very few digressions except where the author wants to set the scene especially that of Derby Day itself which uses the panoramic painting by Frith for inspiration There are obvious and intentional e

  9. says:

    Surely we are living in a new Silver Age of the Victorian sensational novel and long may it continue There have been many superlative entries in this happily revived genre—the works of Caleb Carr Sarah Waters Michael Cox and Clare Clark come to mind—but D J Taylor seems to have set the gold standard with Derby Day Part mystery part crime novel and utterly a suspense thriller it owes much to its many Victorian models—the work

  10. says:

    Having finished Derby Day I can say that it's a solid detective story in the vein of Dickens with a cast of dozens of colorful British charactersa governess a spurned blue stocking wife a sporting man who's a cad old lawyers canny housemaids etc The writing was engaging enough that I did not mind learning how about horse racing a subject that

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