Vintage £9.99 (333pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Blackest Streets, By Sarah Wise
Friday 24 July 2009
The clarity and exactitude of Wise's reports from the dark underbelly of Victorian life bear comparison to the revelatory photographs of that era.
As in her wonderful book The Italian Boy, she explores a milieu that was hungry, dirty, threadbare and exploited. This time, she has focussed on the Old Nichol, an inconceivably seedy corner of Bethnal Green, where 6,000 inhabitants were crammed into 30 streets of crumbling houses.
This adjective was literally true. One of the speculators who built the housing stock was a soap-maker who substituted lime for more expensive mortar.
Though disease and violence were rife, Wise insists that the area's reputation for evil was "ill-deserved". The real evil of the Nichol was the massive fortunes made by aristocratic and ecclesiastical landlords.
Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigourfilm
Bannatyne leaves Dragon's DenTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
- 2 Question Time's 'passionate highlander' is the William Wallace of the Better Together campaign
- 3 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
- 4 Tony Abbott embarrasses Australia by praising Japanese WWII military, ‘getting on the sake’ and posing for ‘crotch-shot’ photo opportunity
- 5 The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories