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  • Victorian London

  • The Life of a City, 1840-1870
  • By: Liza Picard
  • Narrated by: Anton Lesser
  • Length: 6 hrs and 39 mins
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (13 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Like her previous books, this book is the result of the author's passionate interest in the realities of everyday life, and the conditions in which most people lived, so often left out of history books.

This period of mid-Victorian London encompasses a huge range of subjects: Victoria's wedding and the place of the royals in popular esteem; how the very poor lived, the underworld, prostitution, crime, prisons and transportation; the public utilities, Bazalgette on sewers and road design, Chadwick on pollution and sanitation; private charities, Peabody, Burdett Coutts, and workhouses; new terraced housing and transport, trains, omnibuses, and the Underground; furniture and decor; families and the position of women; the prosperous middle classes and their new shops, e.g. Peter Jones, Harrods; entertaining and servants, food and drink; unlimited liability and bankruptcy; the rich, the marriage market, taxes and anti-semitism; the Empire, recruitment and press-gangs.

The period begins with the closing of the Fleet and Marshalsea prisons and ends with the first (steam-operated) Underground trains and the first Gilbert & Sullivan. All the splendours and horrors of Victorian life will be vividly recalled.

©2005 Liza Picard (P)2005 Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Critic Reviews

"Reading her book is like gazing at one of those energetic, crowded canvanses by the Victorian painter William Powell Frith." ( Evening Standard)

What listeners say about Victorian London

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Profile Image for Adeliese Baumann
  • Adeliese Baumann
  • 27-05-2018

Unforgettable journey into the past

This title was an accidental discovery: I found it while searching for something narrated by Anton Lesser. What a nice surprise to find the book is not only narrated beautifully, but well written, fascinating, and highly entertaining!

If you enjoy the minutiae of history, this is great stuff. Go ahead and double that if you're already familiar with London. Ms Picard brings the city to life in truly unforgettable detail. I've studied a lot of English history, but I've neglected the Victorian era in favor of other periods. This book reminded me how much reading I've yet to do. That's a real treat with this kind of history: it leads you onward to still more discoveries.

I know this is a sign of getting old, but I find myself more and more unable to deal with people whinging and moaning about absolutely nothing. I'd like to put every snowflake (and helicopter parent and anyone else lacking what used to be known as a backbone) into a room with this book and let them listen until they could consider their blessings.

I enjoyed it so much I picked up the other three titles offered by Ms Picard. If they are as good as this, I'll be in for a triple treat. I recommend it without hesitation.

8 people found this helpful

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  • RC
  • 21-04-2019

Why abridged?

Author Liza Picard is great but why can't we get the whole of her book?

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Ryan Turner
  • 13-01-2021

Great book, terrible abridgement

The book itself is absolutely wonderful however, the abridgement has removed copious amounts of information and reduced this to a brief collection of ephemera. Do Liza Piard a favor and buy a physical copy to enjoy her wry asides and superb research, but for an audiobook look elsewhere unless you want a bare bones account of Victorian trivia. A real shame because the narration was excellent!

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  • Newenglander18
  • 06-04-2019

Entertaining but not particularly insightful

This book is a whole series of tidbits about life in Victorian London and, in that regard, totally delivers on the promise of its title. But beyond that, there isn’t much depth in terms of scholarship or analysis. It’s entertaining, though, and Anton Lesser is enjoyable as a narrator.

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  • Simone
  • 17-02-2019

Very interesting!

This book had been on my “to read” shelf for almost 7 years! It was worth the wait.

Very interesting and informative.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Heather
  • 09-08-2006

Brilliant

This is by far one of the most insightful thorough books ever written on Victorian London. Liza Picard describes every aspect of life in this era. Packed full of fascinating facts and holds the reader from start to finish. I was sorry when it ended.

31 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Nicholas W. N. Jones
  • Nicholas W. N. Jones
  • 12-07-2007

Puts Dickens in a very real context

This is a wonderful supplement to any reading of Victorian fiction - here is the background. Though the book depends perhaps a little too much on one or two particular sources (hence four stars, not five), this is vivacious, informative, and fascinating. It is beautifully read - Anton Lesser imparts the most complex information is a way which makes it all easy to follow.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • iris
  • 19-07-2011

London as we never knew it!

This book is full of fascinating information about how London was from its dark underbelly to its glittering court. It is especially good at appealing to all the senses through its use of choice images. The narrator's pace is excellent and his voice is very pleasant to listen to. I enjoyed learning about how ordinary men and women coped during this period of rampant industialization and growth.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Dee Jay
  • Dee Jay
  • 07-04-2013

Concise but evocative

This book really brings early Victorian London to life, and Anton Lesser's voice is so relaxing and easy to listen to. It's a pity the book has been abridged for the audio version, though. I would have liked to hear all of it, hence the four rather than five star rating.

6 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Marilyn
  • Marilyn
  • 04-01-2019

Interesting but flawed

The author is either ignorant or hasn’t properly researched the subject matters in this book,as there is missing information
There is also an audio problem at the beginning of the book, which should have been removed in editing

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Nicholas
  • Nicholas
  • 12-07-2007

Puts Dickens in a very real context

This is a wonderful supplement to any reading of Victorian fiction - here is the background. Though the book depends perhaps a little too much on one or two particular sources (hence four stars, not five), this is vivacious, informative, and fascinating. It is beautifully read - Anton Lesser imparts the most complex information is a way which makes it all easy to follow.

8 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Lisa Jones
  • 18-01-2021

Dreadful narration

Clearly fascinating subject matter, but Anton Lesser’s narration is just awful. He rattles through the book in clipped, monotones, with zero enthusiasm or colour. Such a shame. I want to hear the story, but couldn’t take any more of him.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Cynthia
  • 03-04-2016

Absolutely Fascinating

Unable to stop listening. Beautiful narration and full of interesting detail about life in Victorian times.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • caroline
  • 11-03-2011

victorian london

very informative and interesting, a great insight into victorian london

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Joseph
  • Joseph
  • 26-03-2009

Victorian London

Good narration & an exellent insight into Victorian Social history in London - highly recomended

1 person found this helpful

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