In fact, so saturated has the media become with all things Dickensian, you would, dear reader, be forgiven for feeling just a little bit tired of it all. (Personally, I’m expecting the phrase ‘Dickens fatigue’ to enter the OED any day now.)
But, before you take the rash step of swearing off Charles-bloody-Dickens for the sake of your mental health, I urge you to pick up a copy of Lynn Shepherd’s wonderful new book, Tom-All-Alone’s – because if you are indeed suffering from this particular literary malaise, Tom-All-Alone’s provides the perfect antidote by breathing new life into one of Dickens' most famous novels.
And Lynn Shepherd certainly doesn’t shy away from the task in hand. She is unflinching in her re-creation of the seedy, squalid and the downright disgusting underbelly of mid-19th century London. Nothing is off limits in this book, whether it be child prostitution, gruesome Ripper-style murders, or nauseating descriptions of the goings-on in the infamous Bermondsey tanneries. However, all this only serves to bring the slums of Victorian London authentically and vividly to life, and the reader is left under no illusions as to what life was really like for many Londoners forced to eek out an existence in such wretched conditions.
Tom-All-Alone's by Lynn Shepherd is published in the UK by Corsair. It will be released in the US under the title The Solitary House on May 1st. For more information, including a great video introduction by the author, go to http://www.lynn-shepherd.com/