It is 1855, and engineer William May has returned home to his beloved wife from
the battlefields of the Crimea. He secures a job transforming London's sewer
system and begins to lay his ghosts to rest. Above ground, his work is
increasingly compromised by corruption, and cholera epidemics threaten the city.
But it is only when the peace of the tunnels is shattered by murder that William
loses his tenuous hold on sanity. Implicated in the crime, plagued by visions
and nightmares, even he is not sure of his innocence. Long Arm Tom, who
scavenges for valuables in the subterranean world of the sewers and cares for
nothing and no one but his dog, Lady, is William's only hope of salvation. Will
he bring the truth to light?
With extraordinarily vivid characters and unflinching prose that recall Year of
Wonders and The Dress Lodger, The Great Stink marks the debut of an
outstandingly talented writer in the tradition of the best historical novelists.
This is a gripping, richly atmospheric and exceptionally well researched first novel that delivers a fast paced, credible story-line against the background of one of the great feats of British architecture - the building of the London sewer system (made all the more challenging because much of London is 30 feet below the River Thames at high tide, making drainage by gravity alone impossible). (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The Washington Post - Ron Charles
With its intense olfactory workout, The Great Stink won't be to everyone's taste, but it's a rich work of history and a gripping exploration of the unmentionable currents that run beneath the surface of our lives -- and it reeks of talent.
The New York Times - Susann Cokal
Clark's triumph is that she makes us see and smell everything we politely pretend not to......At moments of such lyrical brilliance and sensory precision, the book is literally breathtaking.
Dickens fans should devour British author Clark's debut novel, a gripping and richly atmospheric glimpse into the literal underworld of Victorian England-the labyrinthine London sewer system.
Clark's plot would indeed be her novel's undoing were it not for the genuine skill with which she rubs our noses in its ghastly ambiance, and for the wonderful Long Arm Tom, who might have enjoyed quaffing ale and swapping horror stories with Dickens's immortal Bill Sykes. Significantly flawed, but very much worth reading.
Library Journal - Barbara Love
If librarians can persuade readers to ignore the malodorous title and the even more unfortunate subject heading (sewerage-fiction), they may strongly recommend this confidently written page-turner.
Booklist - Margaret Flanagan
Clark's meticulous research provides a firm foundation for this fascinating fictional foray into one of the most monumental construction and engineering projects of the fledgling industrial age.
Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
Clare Clark writes with the eyes of a historian and the soul of a novelist.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Derek Easterby The Great Stink A bit hard to get into, but once in, it was even more difficult to get out and put it down. A very interesting look into the deeper parts of Victorian London, the great stinking sewers and from here to the traumatic Crimea War. It is a wonder that... Read More
Rated of 5
by Paul Doyle Wonderfully Surprised I chanced upon this book in my local library where I typically take out two to three books per week mostly non-fiction and historical fiction.I found this book to rank close to the top of all the historical fiction I have read over the years.The... Read More
The Crimean War (1854-1856) was fought between Russia and an alliance of
countries including Britain. It is considered to be the first "modern"
war, and was marked by an extraordinary level of incompetence, at least from the British point
of view. The low point of the war was probably the notorious Charge of the Light
Brigade, immortalized by
Tennyson. One good thing did result from the Charge of the Light Brigade - it put an end to the sale of military commissions: The officer who ordered the charge was Lord Cardigan (the eponymous wearer of that useful button down garment that carries his name) who had paid
£40,000 to rise from the rank of an incoming officer to Lieutenant-Colonel in just 6 years. Another good thing to come out of the Crimean war was the birth of modern nursing methods, led by
*If you had a choice between being a tosher, mudlark,
rag-and-bone man, scavenger or riverman in Victorian London, which would you
London was a dangerous place with an unnerving number of...
The nineth Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery, set in Post-World War I England. Rutledge is called on to prove the innocence of a man he dislikes and distrusts. But the deadly triangle also stirs up memories of the woman he himself loved and lost when he went to France to fight.
Myerson conjures a nineteenth-century London that is tender, murky, and unsettling. Laura Blundy is a tale of the unspeakable and tragic exigencies of loss and need - an eerily unforgettable love story.
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