Dickens’ London

29 November 2011

Longterm readers of this blog will know that I am passionately interested in Victorian London, particularly its grimy, seedy underbelly so I was thrilled when Haus Publishing sent me a copy of Dickens’s London by Peter Clark to review.

Few novelists have written so intimately about a city in the way that Charles Dickens wrote about London. A near-photographic memory made his contact with the city indelible from a very young age and it remained his constant focus. Virginia Woolf maintained that, ‘we remodel our psychological geography when we read Dickens,’ as he produces ‘characters who exist not in detail, not accurately or exactly, but abundantly in a cluster of wild yet extraordinarily revealing remarks.’

But the ‘character’ he was drawn back to throughout his novels was London itself, all aspects of the capital from the coaching inns of his early years to the taverns and watermen of the Thames; these were the constant cityscapes of his life and work.

Based on five walks in central London, Peter Clark illuminates the settings of Dickens’s London, his life, his journalism and his fiction. He also explores ‘The First Suburbs’ (Camden Town, Chelsea, Greenwich, Hampstead, Highgate and Limehouse) as they feature in Dickens’s writing.

There’s several books available about Victorian London but this is one is unique as it actually guides you through the streets on five fascinating and in-depth walking tours, which lead you past buildings and places that appear in Dickens’ work (with relevant quotes) or were important to his life. I haven’t attempted one of the tours yet (but will do next time I am in London) but found this a fascinating armchair read as it really leaves no stone uncovered and also highlights just how intertwined Dickens and the city were.

This book is ideal for anyone interested in Victorian London – especially those who are keen on really long walks! I can’t wait to give one of the walks a go.

This brilliant book is a bargain at £7.99 from Haus Publishing’s site and readers who use the Exclusive To This Blog discount code of MMG25 will get 25% off! (It says it is coming out in February but is actually available to buy right now.)

Thanks so much to Haus for my review copy!

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