by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday) ISBN: 9780857533241
Terry Pratchett has created cheeky Dodger to take us on an insider’s tour of Victorian London in this little gem of a book. With wit and wisdom, the fictional character of Dodger brings to life the late 1840s in this famous city. For the modern reader, he provides utterly charming illustrations to accompany the ebullient text.
The book is a joy to read. It is like falling into a storybook of the famous and dishonourable, rich and poor, dirty and virtuous. We meet Lady Burdett-Coutts, an heiress and benefactor who gave away most of her fortune and married her 29-year old secretary at age 67, and Navy Jacks looking for gay ladies of London. In Victorian London, gay ladies meant naughty ladies, not naughty ladies who liked other naughty ladies.
We also meet the cast of Punch and Judy and learn of the Wave and Rocking Bath, which allows you to enjoy the seaside at home. We shiver in the halls of Bedlam, the home of the criminally insane and discover how Sir Robert Peel changed the rules and wardrobe for the police—the very first Bobby was fired for being drunk of the job.
My favourite part was learning of the slums called rookeries because the jam of houses was similar to the way rooks built their nests. The Great Stink of 1858 led to Joseph Bazalgette re-engineering and rebuilding the sewers of the city.
Dodger’s Guide to London will make a beguiling bedside read and a perfectly charming gift for a good friend.