Wednesday, 1 June 2011
City of Sin: London and It's Vices by Catharine Arnold (Non-Fiction)
The book's main strength is that Arnold is a very good writer and each chapter is evocative of the time period it centers on. Arnold is especially good when describing the murky, sinister London of Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd, I almost felt as though I had been transported back in time. More importantly for a book like this, she doesn't judge or defend the people she is writing about - she just relates facts and experiences in an interesting way without being sensationalist. As I originally come from the East End of London myself, I particularly enjoyed the parts about the docks and sailors and working class families of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Another thing I enjoyed was the wide scope of the book - from Ancient Roman through to modern times and not just about prostitution in the traditional sense. There were also interesting sections on homosexuality, organised crime and writers such as Oscar Wilde.
My only criticism of the book is that I felt it was very obviously written by someone who had studied English Literature rather than history. Whilst I like English Lit and did enjoy some of the literary references and quotes, I felt like there were just too many and not enough actual history. Occasionally I did turn a page and think "oh, not another poem!".
Verdict: Very interesting and thorough read.
Score: 4 out of 5