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The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London Paperback – 1 Aug 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848877978
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848877979
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 211,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A quite extraordinary book, which I read with much enjoyment: an intoxicating blend of London, life and literature... I think it's Judith Flanders' best book yet, which is saying something. -- Andrew Taylor Meticulous and gripping... Flanders says that Dickens appealed to contemporaries because he gave them a voyage into the unknown: into parts of London they did not know and where they would not venture. She does something similar for us. The strangeness remains, but the voyage is unforgettable. Independent The teeming, bustling, hand-to-mouth and often smelly facts of mid-19th century urban life have seldom been more vividly presented than in this book. Literary Review Outstanding Sunday Times With infectious enthusiasm Judith Flanders dives into the sights, smells, sounds and grit of what was then the largest city the world had ever known: London Sunday Telegraph Flanders captures the variety and colour of 19th-century London, stirring admiration and indignation by turns. To lead us through the Victorian capital, through its hustle and sprawl, its dangers and entertainments, you couldn't hope for a better guide. New Statesman Recreates the textures of everyday life with an anthropologist's understanding of human behaviour alongside a storyteller's eye for character. Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Judith Flanders is the author of the bestselling The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed (2003); the critically acclaimed Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain (2006); A Circle of Sisters (2001), which was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award; and, most recently, The Invention of Murder (2011). She is a frequent contributor to the Sunday Telegraph, Guardian, Spectator and The Times Literary Supplement. Currently a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham, she lives in London.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Having looked at the Victorian house, Victorian crime and Victorian leisure in previous books, the author now turns her attention to the Victorian city. In particular, London during the time of Dickens', using his journalism and novels to illustrate her own book. Judith Flanders makes an important point that today the word 'Dickensian' often refers to squalor - such as the term 'Dickensian conditions' - whereas in his own time the author was more often seen as convivial and often humorous. As anyone will know who has read any biography of the great man, what Dickens was, more than anything, was an observer of his city and his people. In this book, Flanders attempts to create a picture of London during that time and to show the differences and similarilities with now.

One of the main impressions I came away with from the book is that London was much busier then than our present time - if that is possible! When the author recreates the working day, it showed that even in the middle of the night people were trudging around, either going to work or returning from it. Another major difference is that most people walked fairly long distances to get to and from places. In her section about the city itself, she covers all elements, from the methods of transport, accidents, commuting and even what the roads were surfaced in. She presents a place of immense noise and bustle, with street hawkers, markets, music and crowds, in which many of the inhabitants complained of never having any peace from the constant roar of the streets.

Other sections of the book look at how people lived, enjoyed themselves and the city at night.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Judith Flanders has created a veritable plum pudding of facts and revelations. I pride myself on being knowledgeable about Charles Dickens and his times, but on almost every page there was a fact, a statistic, a revelation, to make me realise how much more I had to learn. One of your reviewers, quite rightly, confessed to needing to stop reading for a while to try to absorb some of the flood of material which fills each glorious page. I too felt this, and see it as a positive indication of the breadth and depth of the work.
Flanders has a pleasant style - neither a lecture nor dull research being regurgitated - and leads the reader in with titbits and startling facts,like the lamplighters of Victorian times shedding much needed light.
Having read countless biographies of Dickens over the years, as well as myself writing about him, I found the parallel stories of Dickens in London and London itself, seamlessly interwoven, painting pictures of London's sprawling and burgeoning community alongside Dickens and his world. It works brilliantly.

I would recommend this book to anybody who is a true Dickensian and/or has a thirst for further knowledge about the origins and development of the greatest city in the world.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent and readable book which brings to life London in the time of Dickens. It covers in detail three broad topics - the City Wakes, Staying Alive, and Enjoying Life. The author has researched well and provides anecdote as well as facts - the facts, unsurprisingly often debunking anecdotal evidence. Many of the daily facts of life are obvious once you've been told, such as if the main mode of transport is horse (tens of thousands of them), there will be lots of horse muck which needs to be removed, feed to be brought in and stored, stabling, and carcasses to be disposed of - hence glue factories, slaughter houses, appalling smells and such like. And similar with regard to the human population (not the slaughter house bit, though prisons and executions are covered).
This is history much more interesting than Kings and Queens, even though royalty and the aristocracy do get a mention too.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As an avid London lover - daughter lives 40 mins commute away and we are there often - I loved being able to pin point places that I know and am now able to go back to London and look for places that were and see what is in their place.
Loved how the history of the city came alive with the comparisons between the Dickens books and the real place.
A little puffed up in places but for London lovers and history people I'd recommend this as a read
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book, by choosing as its primary viewpoint Charles Dickens' display of his intimate knowledge of Victorian London gives a well-coloured close-up of its subject, drawing the reader ingto all the capital's vibrant, noisy, smelly life. Above all, London was bursting with energy, and this is beautifully conveyed. My only criticism is that for my elderly eyes the print, especially of the footnotes, is rather small
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book got off to a dodgy start when the author told us that Dickens "was born in the reign of George II although by 1836 the old King was.......mad". But a few lines later she tells us (correctly) that in 1820 the Prince Regent inherited the throne as George IV. Later in the book she again muddles (twice) George II and George III.

Having said that, once you get into it, the book is detailed and informative. The author has obviously done a good deal of research and knows her Dickens. In many ways Victorian London seems to resemble the India I visited in 1978. The phrase, "the past is another country" comes to mind frequently. For example, I don't suppose that many Londoners eat eel or whelks now, and certainly oysters are no longer associated with poverty.

My criticism of the book is that if anything it goes into too much detail (the chapter on prostitutes is an example). That made me turn pages fairly quickly. This is a pity because the subject matter is very interesting.
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