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A Child of the Jago (Oxford World's Classics)
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
This is a late Victorian classic published in 1896 of the so called slum fiction. The Jago of the title is the Old Nichol an area of east London just east of Shoreditch High Street and west of Bethnal Green, long since pulled down and replaced by the Boundary Estate. At the time of the setting of this story the Old Nichol was arguably one of the poorest areas of London. See for example, `The Blackest Streets' by Sarah Wise (2008), the title of which refers to the colour code of the Victorian social survey maps of Charles Booth. Arthur Morrison's book was controversial at the time of publication and to some extent remains so today. It tells the story of a young boy, Dicky Perrott, born into a distressingly poor family, the mother able to undertake only `take-in' work making matchboxes and the father, although trained in a trade, reduced to a life of crime and violence. As the story unfolds to reveal the day to day life in the Jago, the predatory and continuously violent nature of its inhabitants is revealed. It was the relating of this violence that upset some of the Victorian critics and Morrison's insistence on the inevitability of this violent and degrading behaviour that fuels the present continuing debate over the role of `nature' or `nurture' in social studies.
The story of Dicky Perrott is very well told in a clear, fast moving, style that makes this a real page turner and quite remarkable given its publication date. Some picturesque but highly believable characters are encountered along the way including the scheming café owner and `fence' Aaron Weech, the enterprising father Sturt, the street fighter Sally Green and members of the High Mob, all based by Morrison on real occupants of the Old Nichol. This tale of the Victorian underclass is a good story in itself but should appeal particularly to those interested in the social history of London. This version of the novel contains an interesting introduction which is best read after completion of the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Arthur Morrison's novel 'A Child Of The Jago' was first published in 1896 and still
packs a punch. The story of young Dicky Perrott, growing up in an infamous slum
neighbourhood located just off Shoreditch High Street in late Victorian London,
is a tale of survival in adversity. The descriptions of life in a hell-hole packed to
the rotten rafters with a cast of thieves, murderers and ne'er-do-wells are incredibly
vivid; the sights, sounds and smells of poverty and social calamity leap off the page
as though we have been thrown back in time as participants rather than witnesses.

Morrison captures the local vernacular and speech mannerisms in extraordinary
detail too. He makes these voices from the past hang in the air as though they are
still here with us; alive and kicking (literally) and breathing the same air as ourselves.

At well over a century old the narrative still retains the power to shock and move us.

Highly Recommended.
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on 11 March 2015
This is an excellent and highly readable novel of slum life in one of the worst areas of the east end of London in the 1890s. It is fiction but was based partly on factual observation partly by the author and also the vicar of the area, the Rev Jay, who appears as Father Sturt in the book. (The name Jago is based on Rev Jay's name - the actual area was called The Nichol).

The plot centres around a young boy, Dicky Perrot, who with the help of a sympathetic local priest, tries to escape from his life of criminality in the slums but is doomed to failure by circumstances.

There are quite a few similarities with Dickens' 'Oliver Twist' but without that author's sentimentality and circumlocutions. For a Victorian novel it moves very quickly at a punchy, modern pace and has plenty of action, dotted with grim humour, that kept me hooked until the end.
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v interesting book re life in worst late victorian slums in E London. consistent with Mayhew (tho that is about 40 yrs earlier) and recent reading of original evidence re Jack the Ripper. Doesn't get 5* bcs plot a little thin - tho perhaps like real life!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 December 2014
Grim but gripping.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
It is not a particularly enjoyable book as the depictions of the people living in the Jago are quite mean spirited. This is because it reflects the social attitudes towards working class people at the end of the 19th century. To be fair to Morrison, the fact he wrote this book which would have been read by middle class people demonstrates that he was trying to make people aware of the conditions people in dire poverty were suffering from. This, considering he was writing in an age when no one really cared is quite progressive, but some of Morrison's ideas on how to improve things are questionable from a modern reader's viewpoint. (The introduction reveals that he thought eugenics and sterilising people with criminal backgrounds was a good idea!). In spite of these criticisms 'A Child of the Jago' demonstrates an attempt to revive the 19th century social problem novel which had waned towards the end of the 19th century. It is therefore useful if a reader likes Gaskell's novels along with Dickens' works as some interesting comparisons could be made. The actual edition is very well annotated. The edition not only has a useful introduction which outlines some of Morrison's background as well as his novel's historical, cultural and social contexts, it also has footnotes to explain references that may not be clear to a modern reader. However, these footnotes are at the back of the book so they do not intrude on the reading of the main text. Consequently a reader can choose to ignore them if they wish. It is for this reason that I would recommend this edition to general readers as well as students.
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on 7 November 2014
great
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2012
This is a book that should be read by anyone with sn interest in social history. The 'underclass' is still with us a hundred years after this book was written! A sad reflection on society
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2015
Classic
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