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Derby Day: A Novel Hardcover – April 1, 2012

3.6 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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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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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: 0.6 x 0.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,401,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Everything about this novel delights me, from the subject matter (which frankly I didn't expect to find all that interesting) to the absolutely dead-on language choices. I've read so many modern homages to Victorian literature that just made me wince. Taylor has the total package down completely: Dickens' humanity and pathos, Thackeray's wit and cynicism, and something uniquely his own as well. If I didn't know better I'd be willing to believe this was written in 1868. The voice of the narrator sticks in your head as only the best can do.

I'm so happy to have dicovered Taylor and I'm looking forward to reading his other novels.
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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this per my book club assignment and at first was a little confused but as I read a little further, I couldn't put it down! I laughed out loud many times and as a 10-12 book a month reader, that's rare for me. Great weekend read. Lots of plot twists with one of those endings that leave you wanting more.
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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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Format: Paperback
Despite being called Derby Day, only the last 60-odd pages actually take place on Derby Day, though that's not to say the book isn't all about the Double D, because it is. Looking for a get rich quick scheme, Mr. Happerton comes up with a plan to make a fortune by purchasing a horse and running him in the derby. Just what that scheme entails I'll leave for you the reader to find out.

If you enjoy Victorian style writing, in the best sense-- not verbose, but descriptive, and with a cracking good plot-- you'll probably like this book. In an age in which gifted writers tend to be so averse to old-fashioned story-telling that they'll go to any lengths to deprive the reader of a straightforward narrative, writers like D.J. Taylor are a much-needed relief from all the pretentiousness and obscurity.
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