The Back of the Book: Mary Lamb is confined by the restrictions of domesticity: her father is losing his mind, her mother watchful and hostile, and their maidservant, Tizzy, elderly and infirm. The great solace of her life is her brother Charles – but he feels equally constrained by the drudgery of his work at the East India Company, taking refuge in drink while spreading his wings as a writer. Sometimes, in the evenings, they study together. Mary reads what Charles reads.
So it is no surprise that Mary should fall for the bookseller’s son, seventeen-year-old antiquarian William Ireland, from whom Charles has purchased a book. But this is no ordinary book – it once belonged to William Shakespeare himself. And William Ireland, with his green eyes and his red hair, is no ordinary young man …
The Lambs of London brilliantly creates an urban world of scholars ad entrepreneurs, actors and theatre managers, a world in which a clever son will stop at nothing to impress his showman ather, and no one knows quite what to believe. Can Mary Lamb – vulnerable, sheltered, idealistic – survive such an introduction to the many frailities of human nature?
Ingenious and vividly alive, The Lambs of London is a poignant, gripping novel of betrayal and deceit, a masterly re-enactment of London life which keeps the reader guessing until the end.
Laura’s Review: I chose this book from the library shelves a couple of days ago. I had read some of Mr Ackroyd’s non-fiction (Dickens) previously and was interested to see how he would write fiction.
He opens this book with a reminder that it is indeed fiction and not any attempt at a biography of the Lamb family. And then the story begins. We meet the central characters and find ourselves thrust into the sights, sounds and smells of historic London.
Mr Ackroyd has mixed his fiction with a generous amount of history and I find it diffcult to say where one ends and the other begins. The Lambs are real people, as are the locations described in the text. But the events? I simply do not know and must ascribe this uncertainty to Mr Ackroyd’s considerable skill.
This is an enjoyable book on many levels and it has encourage me to look for more of Mr Ackroyd’s work.
(Reviewed on Thursday the 13th of August 2009.)