Summary: This non fiction book explores details about life in Victorian London using the written works of Charles Dickens as the glue that holds the book and info together.
My rating: 3/5
This is the second book by Judith Flanders I have read and it will probably be the last I read cover to cover. I am a romance writer and I am currently writing a fiction novel based in Victorian England. This is one of the books I was using for research.
The problem I seem to have with Flanders books is that she has a ton of good information but then at some point it feels like she is beating a topic to death. I feel like she could have touched on most of the topics more generally. For instance, there are over twenty pages devoted to food vendors of the Victorian era. I do think it is cool to know that food vendors were a huge part of Victorian life and the way most working class people ate. I even enjoyed hearing about the life of the food vendors themselves up to a point. I felt though that the in depth exploration of specific shops was too much. See Example below:
The Jerusalem Coffee House in Cowper’s Court , Cornhill was linked to the East Indies, China and Sustrailian trades: Garraway’s in Exchange Alley was linked to the Hudson Bay Company (and in Martin Chzzlewit is called a “buisiness coffee- room”) (Pg 295)
The intense level of detail in this book is just a bit much for a casual reader. I feel like if you are not really into the time period then most of this will feel like too much information. It made the book feel draggy and I ended up wanting to put it down many times. I know non fiction can get dry and it wasn’t for me so much that the information was dry but that it felt over-explained at least for someone just curious about the time period. If you are writing college level papers on Victorian London this would probably be a good reference book. If you are trying to get a feel for the time period this book might be a trudging read.
One thing that I loved about this book was the Swell Coves Alphabet. It is the one part of the book I will probably remember forever as my favorite part. It was a bawdy alphabet that people sang in bars. There are quite a few bawdy songs (one of the few times I enjoyed the writer’s over explaining and providing endless examples). Those things made the book worth the read for me and are the thing that most recommends the book in my humble opinion.
I may get other books by this author purely for skimming purposes as she does give thorough information. I just don’t think I will be reading any more of her books from cover to cover.