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The Lambs Of London [Paperback]

Peter Ackroyd
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Aug 2005

Mary Lamb is confined by the restrictions of domesticity: her father is losing his mind, her mother watchful and hostile. The great solace of her life is her brother Charles, an aspiring writer. It is no surprise when Mary falls for the bookseller's son, antiquarian William Ireland, from whom Charles has purchased a book. But this is no ordinary book - it once belonged to William Shakespeare himself. And William Ireland with his green eyes and his red hair, is no ordinary young man...

The Lambs of London brilliantly creates an urban world of scholars and entrepreneurs, a world in which a clever son will stop at nothing to impress his showman father, and no one knows quite what to believe. Ingenious and vividly alive, The Lambs of London is a poignant, gripping novel of betrayal and deceit.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 Aug 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099472090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099472094
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 113,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Ackroyd is the author of biographies of Dickens, Blake and Thomas More and of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River. Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, as well as a broadcaster, biographer, poet and historian. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

Product Description


"As always, Ackroyd brings the bustle, stench and hazards of nineteenth-century London vividly to life and keeps readers on their toes until the final page" (Daily Mail)

"A marvellously adroit tale" (Penelope Lively Independent)

"Energetic and clever... The Lambs of London ingeniously combines two fact-based narratives and transforms them into a detective-cum-love story" (Daily Telegraph)

"Historically animated and emotionally fervent. Ackroyd turns the past into a private phantasmagoria of loving fakes and pungent terrors" (Observer)

"Clever, subtle and touching, often funny and always highly intelligent. A modern novel that requires a second reading - one which will be even more enjoyable and rewarding than the first" (Scotsman)

Book Description

'A delicious entertainment... Ackroyd's latest foray into bygone London finds him at the top of his form' Sunday Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragically beautiful 24 Feb 2008
By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I've read several of Ackroyd's novels (and some of his biographies), and whereas most of those are pretty intricate and 'deep' (by lack of a better word) 'The Lambs of London' is in comparison a very easy book. In a very simple but therefore all the more poignant language it tells the tragic story of Mary and Charles Lamb (brother and sister, both feeling trapped and stifled by the life they lead). By pure coincidence Charles buys a book that supposedly once belonged to Shakespeare from the young bookseller William Ireland, and before long the mysterious William will change their lives forever.

Not only these three principal characters but also the novel's minor characters (Charles' and Mary's parents, William's father, ...) are all beautifully depicted, with their (secret) dreams, hopes and desires leading them on until there's no turning back...

I loved it from the first page to the last.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly wonderful and magnificent read! 19 July 2006
This is the first book I have read by Peter Ackroyd, but will no doubt be the first of many! I could not put this book down - for someone who has a rule of only to read in bed and at bedtime, I found myself trotting through to the bedroom to retrieve it during the day! I found the whole story captivating from the beginning until the very last sentence! I could believe in the characters and the story was woven with feeling, sympathy and much love, though there appeared to be somewhat of an 'open wound' at the end with regard to the tragic figure Mary Lamb, and her adoration of William Ireland. I loved this book so much, I immediately sought out and purchased 'Chatterton' by the same author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ackroyd in London again. 16 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Peter Ackroyd is to London what Woody Allen is to New York. He rarely leaves it (apart from the odd visit to Venice - poor Peter!) but why should he? He knows it so well and its historical characters and writers, he is able to weave such wonderful tales.
Taking two great writers seems an assured way to achieve success but to add another guarantees a good tale. Two Lambs and a Shakespeare.
In a world he knows so well, he tells a very enjoyable and interesting story in the understated style he uses so well.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tales from Ackroyd 21 Aug 2010
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase

In a note at the beginning Peter Ackroyd gives fair warning that `This is not a biography but a work of fiction. I have invented characters, and changed the life of the Lamb family for the sake of the larger narrative.' I do not myself object to fictionalized biography so long as it credibly fills in details of speech or incident, does not depart too far from what is known, and does not deliberately contradict what actually happened. Ackroyd credibly invents speech and the incidents of daily life; but in the depiction of the relationship between Mary Lamb (whose life is well documented) and William Henry Ireland (ditto) he invents a connection for which there is no historical warrant; and in the case of the Shakespearian scholar Edmond Malone and in the dates he gives he runs directly counter to the known facts. This may not trouble most readers; but it irritated me and considerably reduced my appreciation of what is a well-told tale, with the atmosphere and the literary scene of late 18th century London being knowledgeably conveyed with Ackroyd's usual skill and light touch.

The novel gives us a good picture of the principal characters: of Mary Lamb and her brother Charles; of their parents; and of William Ireland and his father Samuel, a bookseller and collector of historical memorabilia. Mary is very close to Charles; she is at times mentally disturbed, and is driven mad by having to attend on her old father, who has lost his mind and whose talk is completely inconsequential, and on her controlling old mother.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Puzzled 1 Jun 2007
Whilst this is beautifully written and offers well-observed characters, the true story of Mary Lamb is even more intriguing and heart-breaking than Peter Ackroyd's fictionalised version. That's why I could only give this book 3 stars. The author is a highly accomplished biographer. His skills would have been better employed in giving us the real story.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lambs of London 1 Oct 2004
By A Customer
I feel bound to offer a counterbalancing opinion to that mooted by Daniel from Bedworth, who did not take to this story of 'Londons [sic] "artistic" [no idea why he put this in quotation marks] community'.
The Lambs of London is a well-crafted novel, interweaving fiction and literary history deftly. It concerns the infamous 'discovery' of Vortigern, one of Shakespeare's lost plays, by William Ireland, a precocious teenage forger, and Ireland's relationship with siblings Charles and Mary Lamb, two amateur Shakespeare scholars. It evokes London at the beginnings of the Romantic period with accuracy and feeling, and, crucially, it sends us back to Shakespeare with rekindled enthusiasm. By no means a two-star novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very pleasurable read 12 Feb 2009
A wonderfully colourful story based around a famous forgery of alleged works by Shakespeare. Ackroyd describes London scenes and characters as only he can and this is an absolute pleasure to read.
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