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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
  • Abridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (237 ratings)

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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

Average customer ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

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

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating reality of Victorian Londoners!

Victorian London and the Victorian era itself are often romanticized and seen through the unrealistic prism of celebrating one of the greatest periods of British history. But that view is too lenient and forgiving, not truly capturing the hardships, sometimes outright horrors, Victorians had to face daily, regardless of class and status. Horrid smells filling the streets, contaminated water spreading illness and death, useless and often harmful medical practices, heartbreakingly high infant death rates, the unbreathable smoggy air of the capital were among the daily realities of Victorian Londoners. Of course, for those born into lesser circumstances, life was a daily fight for survival, ruthless and hopeless.
'Victorian London' is an excellent book showing the hard and often cruel reality of Victorian life. It covers a long list of topics from birth, death, education, employment, to women, children, servants, medical practices, clothes, warfare, and much more. The book is engaging and very well written.
For lovers of the Victorian period, this is a must-read. I'd wager, however, that most will enjoy this book. Highly recommended.

2 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Truncated!

Not obvious when you spend your precious monthly credit, but this listen is clearly an edited ‘highlights’ of the book with annoying musical interludes. Feels superficial & disjointed. If Audible can offer us 24+ hours of Henry Mayhew, then I don’t see why we can’t have the whole of Liza Picard. Read by a very actressy actress in a sepulchral tone that makes even the jollier bits sound like one of the more dismal passages in a Hardy novel, but you do get to hear her do her best Dick Van Dyke accent for the toshers, costermongers & other cheeky Cockneys. Disappointing, wish I’d just bought the book instead. :(

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Lots of information but not stuffy

The author has done a really good job in her research and presentation of Victorian London. I've listened through several times now and still hear new details that I've missed before. Lots to listen to and take on-board but it's not a stuffy book, I find it quite easy to listen to.

Narration by Anton Lesser is superb.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • RC
  • 21-04-19

Why abridged?

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

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Adeliese Baumann
  • 27-05-18

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.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ryan Turner
  • 13-01-21

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!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Newenglander18
  • 06-04-19

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.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Simone
  • 17-02-19

Very interesting!

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

Very interesting and informative.