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.