In 1882, David Wildeblood, a 21-year-old from rural Norfolk, arrives in London to start work at the offices of a famous man. His job is to investigate the notorious slum of Somers Town, recording house by house the number of inhabitants, their occupations and standard of living. The deeper he penetrates the everyday squalor, the more appalled he is by mounting evidence that someone is making a profit from people's suffering. Passionate but reckless in his urge to uncover corruption, he finds his life in danger....
©2012 Anthony Quinn (P)2012 W F Howes Ltd
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"You listen and learn"
In general, I do not go for this kind of book. But this time I was intrigued by the good reviews the book got in the media. And I was not disappointed, in fact, pretty much the opposite. It was a fascinating listen I could hardly part with and left me with doing some research on workhouses etc. The Streets is novel in which history is artfully woven into the story and very well read.
"Touching story of poverty and corruption in 19th C"
I enjoyed the author's last book "Half the Human Race" so I was hopeful this one would be good too. It was.
It is a story about poverty in Victorian England and the need for social reform. We see the streets of Somers Town through the eyes of David. He is employed to log the conditions of the local people for a paper which informs its middle class readers of the terrible conditions that the majority of Londoners live in. The author brings the place and time to life with amazing skill. Although David seems at first to be a little dull, the author gradually and with subtlety tells us his story. We feel a warmth for him, his honesty and the causes he is fighting for. We are on his side and hoping and willing him forward through all his adventures.
Somers Town is also brought to life through its varied and wonderfully drawn characters. David's main friends are Jo and Roma, a brother and sister who have struggled through their troubles and poverty together. But there are also fleeting glimpses of other extraordinary people whose fate is sealed once they fall on hard times. The nobility of their situation is not lost on David, and not content to just log their conditions he seeks to right the wrongs done to them by corrupt landlords, and provide them with a voice. This takes him on a detective like chase, leading all the way up the chain of command to the rotten core of the rent scam.
On the way he learns about some of the more progressive ideas about preserving social order, which masquerade as social reform. Although rooted in the past, the possibility of massive corruption as well as the wealthy orders trying to hold on to their money and status, all at the expense of the hard working poor reminds us of more recent times.
This is an excellent book, read with an attention to accents and the identity of the characters. I liked it - and the ending won't disappoint either.
Atmospheric and historically detailed
I was totally absorbed by this story. As I follow the details of my family's history in 19th century London streets, this book contributed to my research by detailing very accurately and evocatively the life of the poor in London.
No, I have not listened to other performances by Ben Elliott, but this was outstandingly well read. Each character had a distinctive voice and I followed the story without problem. I will make a point of looking for other performances by Ben Elliott.
It was extremely difficult to put this book down and it can easily be read in one sitting if you have sufficient hours to listen to it.
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