1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Our mission is to observe, to enquire, to report. It is not ours to interfere",
This review is from: The Streets (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Anthony Quinn's third novel The Streets tells the story of David Wildeblood, a troubled young man from Norfolk who arrives in London to work on a weekly publication which charts the lives of the people who live in the areas around St Pancras station. David is somewhat naive when he first arrives in the capital, and is thrown in at the deep end when his boss and mentor, Henry Marchmont, takes him on a tour of Somers Town and opens his eyes to the squalor and poverty which exists there.
David is horrified by what he finds; once grand houses split into ramshackle dwellings with families of six or more sharing one damp, lice-infested room. He's even more shocked by the realisation that the profiteering landlords of these properties are `respectable' local businessmen who turn a blind eye to the degradation and filth in which their tenants scrape an existence.
Despite Marchmont's warning that "Our mission is to observe, to enquire, to report. It is not ours to interfere", David finds himself drawn to the cause of the downtrodden inhabitants of Somers Town and with the help of Jo, a local costermonger, and his sister Roma, his investigations take him deeper and deeper into a web of corruption and deceit.
David is our narrator, and a fine job he makes of it; his voice growing in confidence as the story progresses. It's a very atmospheric novel which captivated me from the beginning. I've read quite a few modern/Victorian novels which chronicle the plight of the poor and destitute of London. What sets The Streets apart is the insight it gives into the landlords and other civic bigwigs whose greed and lack of conscience were instrumental in keeping the poor 'in their place', and also the pioneering social reformers who sought to highlight and improve the position of the working classes (in his acknowledgements, Quinn cites Henry Mayhew and Charles Booth as having influenced the novel).
I've thoroughly enjoyed all three of Anthony Quinn's novels. He seems to have a knack for writing about subjects which interest me - the bombing of Liverpool during WW2, the rise of the suffragettes in the Edwardian period and now Victorian London - and it goes without saying that his next book is eagerly awaited.