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Derby Day: A Novel Hardcover – April 1, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus; First American Edition edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605983322
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605983325
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #972,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Derby Day is a triumphant success. In this unputdownable Victorian romp Taylor enjoyable proves himself to be one of the finest of our 21st-century novelists.” (Financial Times)

“Taylor has written an exceptionally clever 19th-century novel with a richness of character that almost matches his models of Dickens and Thackeray.” (Sunday Times, London)

“Derby Day will be hard to put down. As ever with Taylor, literary complexities lurk under the smooth surface of a stylish page-turner.” (Condé Nast Traveler)

About the Author

D. J. Taylor’s Orwell won the Whitbread Prize for Biography. His most recent books are Kept; Bright Young People; Ask Alice; and Derby Day, which was nominated for the Booker Prize and was selected as a Washington Post Best Book of the Year.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By las cosas on August 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a sprawling novel that takes place in approximately 1870 and culminates in the Epson Derby. The writing is an approximation of that employed in Victorian novels, and the structure of the book, along with the characters and plot, would not be out of place in a serialized novel of the time.

This is risky for a novelist to attempt, and I'm not certain whether such a concept will prove popular in the United States, but I found it generally successful. The caveat to that is that I read and reread a large number of Victorian novels, and have great patience for their length.

The pacing of the book is languid, particularly at the beginning, but the various tentacles of the plot finally come together for the Derby. Actually the main plot strands come together around the race, but there is a non-Victorian epilogue that tells us what happened to other characters.

The main character, Mr. Happerton, has many of the characteristics admired by Victorian novelists and readers. A self-made man who, while clearly only interested in his own monetary advancement, is pleasant, diligent and farsighted. But we soon learn he is an amoral cad, and in no sense a gentleman. All keen readers of Victorian fiction know the eventual destiny of such persons. The only suspense in the book (and by this I mean Dickens' suspense, not Wilkie Collins' mystery) is who will win the Derby.

The book is great fun, filled with minor Victorian wit (sitting longer than Gladstone, endless dissenter quips) and a reasonably good ear for Victorian prose. But the entirety of the book is a tad thin, and none of the characters, or scenes, live up to the standards of fine Victorian literature. After finishing this I reread Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds. Rebecca Happerton is an insecure, repressed woman who would benefit from some mentoring from Lizzie Eustace.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Carol Colitti Levine on September 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
Derby Day, D.J. Taylor- An homage to the Victorian novel. Taylor deftly conjures the genre, although only a few characters resonate. He defies any period in his portrayal of Rebecca, the central female figure. She is the epitome of enigmatic evil. Delicious. More Hardy than Thackeray, Taylor paints bleak Lincolnshire countryside mist or decrepit Fitzrovia alley blight with a finer brush than Belgrave Square's West End Society. ****

Carol Colitti Levine The Side Trek
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ismene on January 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It took some time for Derby Day to leave the post, but when it did it was a winner. I think the massive amounts of threads had to come together to show the plot. Because it was a slow read, I would not recommend it for everyone.
The character we ended up with was not one where we got into her head, but she was always the one we wanted
to ask:" Are you getting this? who is riding this story?"
I'm not sure why it was a finalist for the Booker Prize. But then I have never understood the appeal of Hillary Mantel's books as the "best" either. It is a rather modest little charming work. The author captures the Victorian tone and does
much by innuendo which makes the reader feel intelligent rather than spelling it all out.
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By reading man on December 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amazing that a contemporary British novelist wants to write 19th century novels like DERBY DAY!

Since one of his favorite writers is Thackeray (he wrote an excellent bio of WMT), and since he's criticized most of his contemporaries as not being equal to the 19th century giants, it follows that he takes his lead from temps perdu.

And he's a great writer. Definitely the only current British novelist worth reading, far superior to the best-selling Martin Amis, a very pale simulacrum of Amis pere.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This novel, though it stands alone perfectly adequately, is a sequel of sorts to "Kept" (which I personally found to be one of the most enjoyable novels I've read in years). Where "Kept" is a more sweeping Dickensian novel with lots of subplots, Derby Day is relatively constrained. I say relatively because there's still a fair amount going on, but most of the action is constrained around the horse Tiberius and the Derby plot fairly directly. Derby Day has a Victorian sense to it, in the general setting of course, but there's a sort of Thackeray voice as well narrating things and pointing out inanities or incongruities.

For a novel of this size (400 pages) it's a bit thin. None of the characters never really get quite fleshed out in the way that one might like, and some of the characters and subplots don't seem to repay their inclusion.

I think fans of Victorian/period novels will enjoy this.
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