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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 20 April 2015
This sort of book really appeals to me...how things used to be, how people used to live. The surprise in some things that are so similar to now and then the shock at things that are so difficult that you struggle to imagine them. This is a story of a place that you can see as being in the process of becoming what it is, but both it and the people who inhabited it are not modern, they are not us, although they may be on the way.

So descriptions of morning coffee houses and the street vendors that appear ubiquitous and the care needed to ensure that you had enough to eat to perform physical labour for many hours all resonate as things that you can almost picture and almost project yourself into.
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on 14 April 2017
Good for those interested in this era
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on 12 October 2014
This is a brilliantly written book which gives such a good description of London in Dickens time, that you can actually visualise
the scenes described very easily.
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on 11 September 2013
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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on 6 August 2013
Bought this in the summer sale, reading it now, and it is absolutely riveting. As well as having the added benefit of driving you straight back to Dickens to re-read with a greater understanding of the world of his novels. Fabulous. You'd be crazy not to get it while it's still on sale. 99p - what a bargain!
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on 25 April 2013
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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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. I learnt that markets and public houses had to close during church services, something I had not been aware of before, and a whole host of other interesting and informative facts. London during Dickens' time was always on the move. As the population increased, slum dwellings (or rookery's) began to grow, with workhouses and prisons visible presences in the city. Poverty led to many ingenious ways to make things cheapest for the very poorest. Public houses had a 'saveall' to collect dregs from glasses to be sold cheaply, or given away, for instance. My very favourite was the fact that you could have newspapers delivered, or 'rent' them - if that was too expensive for you, you could rent the previous days paper for an even cheaper price. Still, the author looks carefully at the poverty and injustice Dickens' was famous for exposing and also looks at life expectancy, public water pumps, illness and epidemics and the links between crime and poverty.

London was not always so dark and depressing and her vivid descriptions of London at night, with public houses, theatres, street organs, parks and public spaces are fascinating. I have lived in London all my life, but was never aware of the work on Trafalgar Square, for instance, which went on for so long that hardly anybody could muster any enthusiasm when the lions were finally installed - only a handful of men witnessing they arrival in the capital. There are interesting digressions into royalty, food, street violence and fascinating accounts of public executions. For Dickens' his city was a place that encompassed all life, and leaving London and leaving life one and the same. Flanders does a wonderful job of recreating that time and of relating it always to Dickens' London and his work. If you have an interest in Victorian London or the work of Charles Dickens, this will be a must read. Lastly, I read the kindle edition of this book and it contained illustrations.
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on 8 January 2015
A fantastic and fascinating book on life in Victorian London. Flanders covers the minutiae of living in the metropolis with skill. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I am not really a fan of Dickens' work, but I thought the author struck the balance between an informative history and referencing characters and scenes from Dickens' writing well.

Take time to read the footnotes also; they are really interesting and given they take up a large proportion of the book, should be paid attention to.

My only gripe would be the obvious lack of effort the publisher put into converting the book into an ebook, with page references left in throughout. This is fairly useless on Kindle and made referring back to former comments a pain.
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on 5 December 2013
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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on 8 November 2012
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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