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on 4 May 2012
I don't know Bath particularly well, but this book certainly made me want to explore some of the historical sites of the town in more detail. The author clearly has an eye for historical detail, but more importantly he created some plausible characters and gave them sufficient depth that I actually started caring about what was going to happen to them at the end. At times it had me thinking of 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' by Robert Tressels (Sp?) in the way that it used a narrative to make social points (though here it is purely historical).

The book definitely did a good job of conjouring up a Victorian atmosphere - and it managed to create a strong visual image in my mind. I'd be interested to read something else by the author, but maybe set in a different era - it would be good to see how he uses a more contemporary world to make social/economic/political observations.

5 stars - better than a lot of stuff I've read from well established authors.
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on 10 March 2013
Avon Street is the debut novel of writer Paul Emanuelli. It is set in the city of Bath in 1850 - a city made famous by Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. The story revolves around James Daunton's attempt to rid the notorious slum area of Avon Street of the malign but terrifyingly powerful Nathaniel Caine and his vicious gang of bullies and criminals. In this he is aided by the Irish Catholic priest Father Brennan and the American John Doyle. Female interest comes in the form of the delightful actress Belle Bennett, her friend Jenny and small daughter Molly.
The book is nicely paced, with enough historical detail to anchor it firmly in the Victorian period, but not so much that it obtrudes into the writing and hinders the reader from enjoying the characters and the pacey story. It is quite clear that much research has been undertaken, and the writer has a secure knowledge of Bath, but he manages to maintain a light touch, suggesting period through the sound of a shop bell, or the etiquette of a Pump Room ball.
As for the story itself, I enjoyed the various unexpected twists and turns - the way that Belle's theatre career seems over, until an unexpected meeting turns her fortunes around, and there were some really heart-stopping moments, such as when James breaks into the ruthless Frank Harcourt's house, only to be trapped in a bedroom when he returns unexpectedly.
Emanuelli manages to maintain the reader's interest to the end - and what an exciting end!
I recommend this book, both for the story,and for the almost spare style of writing. If you want your 'history' served with an expert but not over-lavish hand, Avon Street cannot fail to satisfy.
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on 1 March 2016
I like crime and I like historical fiction so I really enjoyed this book. It's a long time since I lived near Bath but this book made me want to visit again. A very different perspective on Bath than the one provided by, for example, Jane Austen but yet we see both sides of it - the genteel side and the extremely impoverished Avon Street.
It's an extremely gripping start and captured the atmosphere extremely well. I felt that slackened off a little later in the book. It's about good trying to outdo evil and although I felt the methods were slightly too simplistic at times and perhaps a little unrealistic, the main characters are strong and I liked the fact the female characters are a force to be reckoned with too, with a few surprises here and there.
I'd definitely recommend it - a good read.
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on 29 October 2012
I have just finished reading this - I bought it because my book club is reading it this month. I have really enjoyed it, the characters are believable, there is a good side and a bad side but neither is perfect in its role, making the individuals much easier to feel a connection with and to care about. This isn't a murder mystery as I thought it would be from the title, more a story about the lives of the other side of society to that portrayed in Austen's books of Bath. Being a local resident in the city I obviously found the setting really interesting, but you don't need to know Bath to enjoy this book. The descriptions are lively and bring the scene to life, and make for a real page-turner. I look forward to reading more from this new author.
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on 28 March 2012
I found this book a little slow to begin with, but it assumed its own momentum and was eventually difficult to put down. It was an enjoyable read.

The author has clearly carried out a great deal of research and is true to the historical context of Victorian Bath - a fascinating setting.

An excellent first novel - I for one hope that more will come along from this author.
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on 8 July 2012
Dark and intriguing, this is a wonderfully evocative tale of the underbelly of Victorian Bath. I love historical fiction and I was completely drawn in to the story and characters. A brilliantly crafted book from a talented new voice in this genre. Highly recommended.
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on 27 March 2015
The Avon Street area of Bath was a bad place to live in the 19th Century and not a safe place to visit.

Avon Street had a fair share of Boarding Houses. During the 1800's many families came to Bath looking for work and their first accomodations were often in the many Boarding Houses around the City. So their stay there would be short.

One of my ancestors began his association with Bath in Avon Street.

Avon Street was described as "a desperate and impoverished place..."

By 1850, industry was thriving in the city whilst its traditional role as a spa and watering-hole for polite society was declining.

The Avon Street area of the city had grown into a sprawling, disease-ridden slum and was subject to frequent flooding.

Though it occupied a relatively small part of the city geographically, it was home to twenty per cent of Bath’s population. It was abhorred and for the most part ignored by the city and its visitors, yet the two sides of the city co-existed uneasily, one dependent on the other.

Avon Street provided the servants, the labourers, the factory workers and sweat-shop employees. High society employed the servants and bought the goods they made.

Bath as a city did its best to keep Avon Street, the factories and sweat-shops largely out of sight and as far away as possible from the minds of visitors and wealthy residents.

The cholera outbreak in 1849 (largely confined to Avon Street) had been the second largest in the country, yet it too was kept out of the public eye. When disreputable behaviour spilled out into the city, it was usually put down to the ethnic origin of the ‘sinner’ or the influence of alcohol and was punished as harshly as the law would permit, and the law permitted a great deal of harshness.

Today most of the Avon Street Area is a soulless place, now occupied by Bath Spa University, various commercial properties, bus depots and sundry car parks. The houses are gone: the past, its people and their stories lie buried.
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on 21 April 2015
I enjoyed this historical novel. It is set in Bath in 1850, and although it is not a “true story”, it is based on real facts and events. Historical novels set in Bath are not unusual, but they are generally a little more genteel than this one, which looks at both the moneyed classes and the destitute classes and how the two merge with tragic results.
The main protagonist, James Daunton, has been a successful solicitor, but he is weak and undiscerning in some of his friendships. I enjoyed the way we see him reach rock bottom, but then with cunning, conscience and good friends from different walks of life he climbs out of the pit he has made for himself. All the characters, from the sleazy, unprincipled crooks to the working classes to the professional classes are all written well – the women as well as the men – and given equal exposure.
The descriptions of the town were very atmospheric. The author has clearly done a good deal of research, but doesn’t pile it on to keep reminding the reader he has – he seamlessly weaves it in amongst the storyline to give a vivid account of life of the period. There were a few times, especially before I really got into the story, where I forgot I was reading a historical book and I felt the language didn’t quite fit with the era and I had to make an effort to keep my mind in Victorian times, but once I had got into the rhythm of the story I could picture it better.
There are several characters, and I enjoyed how they interacted. I felt that some of the relationships were a little too “easy”, but that could have been my misconception of what I thought they should be like (from those other, genteel, novels).
I liked that everyone’s story was wrapped up so the reader isn’t left dangling, but I think the wrapping up could have been given a few more pages and done with more of a storyline rather than “this is what happened to him and this is what happened to her”. There is a little too much telling and not enough showing throughout the book, but that is a minor quibble, as overall it makes a cracking good tale that I enjoyed reading.
I enjoyed the unusual perspectives, I enjoyed the cunning and the unfolding of the plots and events leading up to a final showdown, and I enjoyed the non-traditional friendships and the slightly unexpected outcomes for the main characters. I liked that there were strong females and that they didn’t come over all unnecessary at the slightest hint of impropriety or danger, but nor were they unrealistically brave.
I would recommend this book to readers that like a slightly more gritty historical novel, and readers that know Bath. You don’t have to know Bath to enjoy the story, but being familiar with the city does give an added dimension to the pleasure of reading. I will definitely buy more books by this author.
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on 21 June 2012
Gritty, utterly engaging and thoroughly researched, this historical, crime thriller is influenced by actual events from Bath in 1850. As the author says, `The past makes us who we are,' and his clever adaptation of actual characters and events makes `Avon Street' a novel that I'd highly recommend. I hope Paul Emanuelli reaches the audience that he so deserves.
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on 17 August 2012
This book kept my interest throughout-- I can usually guess what's going to happen in books -- but not this one. Avon Street really took me there, back in time, I cared about the people and what happened to them-- a rare gift for an author to create good plots and characters. I read this on holiday and would highly recommend it. I think it it would make a good TV period drama series-- bring on the next one Paul Emanuelli !!
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