Firstly I wish to thank Sophie Painter of Vintage, Penguin Random House for inviting me to read and review this brilliant book in anticipation of the FILM RELEASE this Autumn.
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (24 Aug. 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1784708208
- ISBN-13: 978-178470820
Soon to be an unmissable film starring Bill Nighy, Douglas Booth and Olivia Cooke.
Dan Leno, the great music hall comedian, was known in his lifetime as ‘the funniest man on earth’. So how could he have been involved in one of the most curious episodes in London’s history when, in a short period during the autumn of 1880, a series of murders was attributed to the mysterious ‘Limehouse Golem’?
In Peter Ackroyd’s novel the world of late-Victorian music hall and pantomime becomes implicated in a number of sinister scenes and episodes, and the connection between the light and dark sides of nineteenth-century London begins to attract contemporary figures as George Gissing and Karl Marx. But there are also less well-known characters who play a significant role in the narrative. What, for example, is the secret of Elizabeth Cree, about to hang for the murder of her husband?
Mesmerising, macabre and totally brilliant’ Daily Mail
HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW
An accused and convicted murderer, 31 year old Elizabeth Cree, was to face her final audience, only a small selected crowd had been hand picked for the purpose and being the performer she was she wouldn’t let it pass and so she spoke her last words, before the noose tightened , “Here we are again”. The date is 6th April 1881 and the place is Camberwell Prison London.
The story drops back to be pieced together from the trial of Elizabeth Cree, the diaries of her deceased husband and her own story leading up to her death. Set in the East End of London in the 1800’s the streets are paved with filth and the air is laced with smog but if some of the residents could scrape enough money together there was an escape, just for a little while. A trip across the Thames paying a penny to the ferry man delivered the theatres and a comical look at life together with a sing song for all. On one of these nights, 10th September 1880, June Quig was murdered, ok a dead body in London, a prostitute at that and on the poorer side of the Thames, not really breaking news except in the way she was displayed. As a second murder victim soon follows, grotesquely disfigured and displayed again, the killer gained a name this time, The Limehouse Golem.
This is some wicked story that throws you about as a reader and whoa what a macabre killing machine this person is. No hesitation, no regret, no idea who is doing this. A work of art to be shared. The Golem is a fictional character created from myths as an artificial being by magicians or a Jewish Rabi in the 15th century. Now mobs were heard running through the streets after seeing the Golem for it only to disappear, but the police worked from evidence and facts alone not hysteria. But the body count continued to rise.
This book has now been made into a big screen film to be released very soon and if it is anything to go by it is going to be tremendous Block Buster. Peter Ackroyd created two sides of Victorian London, one where the poor went to the theatre to laugh and forget their lives and the other where fantasy retold the horrors of the outside in the theatre to make the poor accept the tragedies easier.
The murders, although totally macabre have a sort of morbid fascination about their execution as you glimpse how this killer’s mind works and how what is happening is seen through their eyes. It isn’t a place you want to stay for long. The Victorian Music Halls were the sanity for the poor of London and were stars were created like Dan Leno, was one of the funniest performers of his time. This is a book built on atmosphere and was already easy to play in my mind as I read. I love to read a book before I see the film as it makes for a more intense viewing. I have been in this killers mind …………………..
I wish to thank the publisher for an invitation to read this novel, this review is an honest reflection of my thoughts.
HERE IS A LITTLE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Ackroyd’s mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age of 7.
Ackroyd was educated at St. Benedict’s, Ealing and at Clare College, Cambridge, from which he graduated with a double first in English. In 1972, he was a Mellon Fellow at Yale University in the United States. The result of this fellowship was Ackroyd’s Notes for a New Culture, written when he was only 22 and eventually published in 1976. The title, a playful echo of T. S. Eliot’s Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948), was an early indication of Ackroyd’s penchant for creatively exploring and reexamining the works of other London-based writers.
Ackroyd’s literary career began with poetry, including such works as London Lickpenny (1973) and The Diversions of Purley (1987). He later moved into fiction and has become an acclaimed author, winning the 1998 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for the biography Thomas More and being shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1987.
Ackroyd worked at The Spectator magazine between 1973 and 1977 and became joint managing editor in 1978. In 1982 he published The Great Fire of London, his first novel. This novel deals with one of Ackroyd’s great heroes, Charles Dickens, and is a reworking of Little Dorrit. The novel set the stage for the long sequence of novels Ackroyd has produced since, all of which deal in some way with the complex interaction of time and space, and what Ackroyd calls “the spirit of place”. It is also the first in a sequence of novels of London, through which he traces the changing, but curiously consistent nature of the city. Often this theme is explored through the city’s artists, and especially its writers.
Ackroyd has always shown a great interest in the city of London, and one of his best known works, London: The Biography, is an extensive and thorough discussion of London through the ages.
His fascination with London literary and artistic figures is also displayed in the sequence of biographies he has produced of Ezra Pound (1980), T. S. Eliot (1984), Charles Dickens (1990), William Blake (1995), Thomas More (1998), Chaucer (2004), William Shakespeare (2005), and J. M. W. Turner. The city itself stands astride all these works, as it does in the fiction.
From 2003 to 2005, Ackroyd wrote a six-book non-fiction series (Voyages Through Time), intended for readers as young as eight. This was his first work for children. The critically acclaimed series is an extensive narrative of key periods in world history.
Early in his career, Ackroyd was nominated a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1984 and, as well as producing fiction, biography and other literary works, is also a regular radio and television broadcaster and book critic.
In the New Year’s honours list of 2003, Ackroyd was awarded the CBE.