Book Reviews

Dickens’s London by Peter Clark


What Da Cover Says:  Marking the 150th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s death, Dickens’s London leads us in the footsteps of the author through this beloved city. Few novelists have written so intimately about a place as Dickens wrote about London, and, from a young age, his near-photographic memory rendered his experiences there both significant and in constant focus. Virginia Woolf maintained that “we remodel our psychological geography when we read Dickens,” as he produces “characters who exist not in detail, not accurately or exactly, but abundantly in a cluster of wild yet extraordinarily revealing remarks.” The most enduring “character” Dickens was drawn back to throughout his novels was London itself, in all its aspects, from the coaching inns of his early years to the taverns and watermen of the Thames. These were the constant cityscapes of his life and work.

In five walks through central London, Peter Clark explores “The First Suburbs”—Camden Town, Chelsea, Greenwich, Hampstead, Highgate and Limehouse—as they feature in Dickens’s writing and illuminates the settings of Dickens’s life and his greatest works of journalism and fiction. Describing these storied spaces of today’s central London in intimate detail, Clark invites us to experience the city as it was known to Dickens and his characters. These walks take us through the locations and buildings that he interacted with and wrote about, creating an imaginative reconstruction of the Dickensian world that has been lost to time.

What I Says:  This is a must read book for the fans of Charles Dickens, ever wondered where the great man himself lived or went to school?  Want to know the area his books were based and where his characters lived and died?  If you want to visit these places and look for the landmarks that still exist, then this is the book for you.

The book contains 5 walks, it doesn’t give lengths of the walks as there are plenty of little detours down side streets to make that a too difficult task.  The first walk starts off at Trafalgar Square and if you look at all the routes at once it takes a sort of circular route around London finishing up at Trafalgar Square again.

I read this book during the great lockdown of 2020 so was unable to get out and do this book on foot, instead I read it from the comfort of my home using google maps as a tool…not the easiest thing to do with that temperamental piece of software but I did mange to find a number of the places mentioned.  Most interesting to me was the church that rang the bells in A Christmas Carol, that was the point where I realised just how brilliant this book was.  I’ve only read a few of Dickens’s books so I will have to re-read one day in the future when I’ve read more of them.

There is a huge amount of history included in the book and it was interesting to read about how London has changed since Dickens walked the streets…it is a shame that a lot of the buildings have been replaced with boring concrete and glass structures.

A very enjoyable book, crammed with lots of facts and hopefully one day I’ll be able to get out there and follow one of the routes.

Thanks to Haus Publishing for the copy of this book to review, you can get a copy of the book from their WEBSITE.


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