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I have just started reading The Great Stink by Clare Clark. So far I have only read the first twenty or so pages but already I can sense this will be a rare pleasure. In the first chapter, we meet the main character (William May, a mentally damaged veteran of the Crimea) as he delves deep beneath the stinking metropolis of mid 19th century London. The first few pages are a sensory punch in the face. I haven’t been able to get the impression of much of a plot just yet; the pace is slow, at least to begin with, but the description is sublime.
I’ve been meaning to read more contemporary historical fiction, and as this is my era I’m sure this book will reward my efforts. I will, of course, write a complete review when I am finished.
Here is the blurb from the Waterstones page:
William May returns to London after the horrors of the Crimean War. Scarred and fragile though he is, he lands a job at the heart of Bazalgette’s transformation of the London sewers. There, in the darkness of the stinking tunnels beneath the rising towers of Victorian London, May discovers another side of the city and remembers a disturbing, violent past. And then the corruption of the growing city soon begins to overwhelm him and a violent murder is committed. Will the sewers reveal all and show that the world above ground is even darker and more threatening than the tunnels beneath? Beautifully written, evocative and compelling, with a fantastically vivid cast of characters, Clare Clarke’s first book is a rich and suspenseful novel that draws the reader right into Victorian London and into the worlds of its characters desperately attempting to swim the tides of change.