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The Nether World (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 11 Dec 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (11 Dec. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019953828X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199538287
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 299,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

From the Back Cover

This is a tale of intrigue, as rapacious schemers try to wrest a fortune out of a mysterious old man who has returned to their midst, and of thwarted love. There is no sentimentality. This is a world in which the strong exercise power against their own kind, scheming and struggling for survival, a world from which, Gissing bleakly maintains, there can be no escape. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

George Robert Gissing ; 22 November 1857 – 28 December 1903) was an English novelist who published 23 novels between 1880 and 1903. Gissing also worked as a teacher and tutor throughout his life. He published his first novel, Workers in the Dawn, in 1880. His best known novels, which are published in modern editions, include The Nether World (1889), New Grub Street (1891), and The Odd Women (1893). --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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This is a vivid and at times gripping Victorian novel set in the London district of Clerkenwell in the 1870s. It follows the lives of a group of poor people living on subsistence wages. Gissing splendidly charts their rivalries, hopes and inevitable disappointments in trying to escape from the unremitting drudgery of everyday life in this closely delineated area of the capital. The book strikes a more realistic tone than, say, Dickens and does not have recourse to caricature or unlikely twists of fate to intervene on behalf of the protagonists. It is, perhaps, closer to the style of Arnold Bennett. An interesting story, well told and an excellent writing style.
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Format: Paperback
'The Nether World' is a thoroughly intricate and absorbing novel which projects a romantically cynical view of London life in the Late Nineteenth-Century. The story is filled with remarkably rounded characters which, despite their abject status, shine with intensity. In particular, Clara the aspiring young woman, touches the most.
One can not be sure of Gissings stance towards the characters and surroundings of Clerkenwell, whether it be be pity or contempt. However, the overall mood within the novel cynically depicts the tedious and alienated London life.
I thought that I could never enjoy a Nineteenth-Century novel, until I read this one. Gissing surpasses Dickens in characterisation and humour and challenges the detail of Eliot.
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Gissing seems to have borrowed the title of this novel from Dante - and the 'nether world' he wrote about, and mapped in some detail in the course of the novel, is the area within a few hundred yars of Clerkenwell Green. Gissing knew this part of London well, though he never lived in Clerkenwell. His novel is one of the great depictions of working class London. Many of the characters are drawn sympathetically, if not always convincingly, and Gissing took care to portray with accuracy. But his argument is that there is no escape from the poverty, exploitation and injustice - and what seems to make his even more angry, the lack of any cultural aesthetic - of London's poor. All the most obvious remedies are tried in the course of the novel - philanthropy, self-help, slum clearance and political radicalism - and all are found wanting. AW
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By Robin Friedman TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 May 2011
Format: Paperback
In his novel "The Nether World", George Gissing offers an unsentimental, grim, and uncompromising portrayal of life in the London slums in the last third of the nineteenth century. Gissing (1853 -- 1903) was a late Victorian English novelist who deserves to be better known. As a promising young student, Gissing fell in love with and stole to support a prostitute, Helen Harrison ("Nell").After a prison term and a subsequent stay in the United States, Gissing returned to England and married Nell in what proved to be a stormy and unhappy relationship for both parties. Nell died in 1888 after she and Gissing had been separated for six years. When Gissing saw the conditions of the foul room in which Nell lived, he vowed to write a book in her memory to expose the abysmal character of London slum life. The result was "The Nether World" (1889). It is Gissing's seventh novel and his fifth and final book set in the London slums. Together with "New Grub Street", "The Odd Women", and "Born in Exile" it is among Gissing's best novels. Unlike most of Gissing's books, it is generally in print and accessible.

Although Nell's death moved Gissing to write this novel, little in it is autobiographical. Gissing had lived in the slums of London he describes after his return from the United States. He was a compulsive and inveterate walker of city streets and a detailed observer of what he saw. He also did a great deal of reading, both of novels and of studies of the urban poor, that found its way into "The Nether World."

The book is lengthy and densely plotted. It is set in its entirety in a small area called Clerkenwell with few scenes of life outside the slum.
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Format: Paperback
Classic literature. A less romantic Dickensian story. Life as it really was in those days. If one is researching a family tree for this part of London and at that time, this is the book to read for the real flavour of how life was at that time.
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Gissing made such extraordinary decisions in his private life that it's hard not to suspect that he deliberately followed such a difficult path just so that he could write with conviction about his experiences. The reader is left in no doubt about the realities of the struggle for survival of the poor in Victorian London. If you enjoy the Dickens of Hard Times, you will enjoy Gissing. As another reviewer has suggested, his popularity could have surpassed that of Dickens if his personal life hadn't been so unacceptable to Victorians.
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I think this book is a hidden gem, and why someone hasn't made it into a movie I just don't know. For me, in some ways, it is better than Dickens - it seems less sentimental and more truthful, somehow. The mystery keeps you turning the page, and the characters in it are memorable. Got to read this one!
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