Sir Richard Steeles Cottage, Hampstead, c. 1832
For my tastes there is no such thing as a book too full of the panorama of London. In New Grub Street Gissing takes the reader on quite the evocative walking tour of the streets of London, particularly Bloomsbury. Characters crossing paths on street corners while walking to the British Museum were so vividly described that I searched them out on Google Maps, it's all there. Dark staircases leading up to sparsely furnished garret rooms had me putting on the kettle despite our warm temperatures this summer. When moral fibre struggles against hunger and Edwin is faced with selling off his precious books I thought about my own bookshelves and could have cried. Newspapers, reviews, authorship, periodicals, journal writing and the competition for readership rival anything going on in the world of media today, New Grub Street positively reeks of ink.
I'm two-thirds the way through and absolutely loving this book. Gissing writes his female characters with plenty of smarts and backbone so I can't wait to find out how the ladies handle issues of romance, inheritances, business and scallywags. Stay tuned...