In 1882, David Wildeblood, a 21-year-old from rural Norfolk, arrives in London to start work at the offices of a famous man. As an 'inspector' for Henry Marchmont's hugely successful weekly The Labouring Classes of London, his job is to investigate the notorious slum of Somers Town, near the new St Pancras Station, recording house by house the number of inhabitants, their occupations and standard of living. By mapping the streets in this way, Marchmont intends to show the world the stark realities of poverty in its greatest city.
Befriended by Jo, a young coster, and his sister Roma, David comes to learn the slang of the hawkers and traders, sharpers and scavengers, magsmen and mobsmen, who throng the teeming byways of Somers Town. It is the place of a Darwinian struggle for survival. And the deeper he penetrates the everyday squalor and destitution the more appalled he is by mounting evidence that someone is making a profit from people's suffering.
A dinner at the Kensington home of his godfather Sir Martin Elder introduces him to Kitty, Elder's only daughter, and to a cabal of prominent citizens who have been plotting a radical solution to the problem of London's poor. David belatedly realises that a conspiracy is afoot. Passionate but reckless in his urge to uncover it he finds his life in danger, sustained only by the faithfulness of a friend and, ultimately, the love of a woman.
In The Streets Anthony Quinn reconstructs an unforgettable picture of Victorian London, encompassing the extremes of privilege and privation, from the baronial mansions of the rich to the 'whited tombs' of the slums. With shocking poignancy and pin-sharp detail he brings to life a world of terrible degradation, yet one redeemed by dark comedy, profound fellow-feeling and the enduring possibility of love.
Shortlisted for the 2013 Walter Scott Prize.
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Ambitious, gripping and disturbingly well done. - The Times
Quinn’s most mature novel yet… His picture of poverty’s shaming, dehumanizing effect is powerful, and the recurrent call for pity heartfelt. Ms Eliot and Mr Dickens would surely approve. - Sunday Telegraph
Cements his reputation as an accomplished and challenging novelist… Though it takes place 130 years ago, the questions that The Streets poses about how, as a society and individuals, we tackle deprivation arguably remain just as pertinent. - Independent
Quinn blends his history, his political concerns, his ideals, his plot and his characters elegantly, with a light hand and the pace of a thriller. - Daily Telegraph
Displays the unsentimental yet powerful flair for romance that characterized his previous novel, Half of the Human Race. Perhaps most exciting of all, there is a sense that he is still writing within himself. - Sunday Times
Magnificent, bringing the Dickensian streets to grubby, teeming life. - Daily Mail
Anthony Quinn is a terrific storyteller. He has a thrilling knack for turning familiar periods of history into something surprising and often shocking, and for making the fortunes and misfortunes of his characters matter. - Evening Standard
Quinn brings the period in question vividly to life: his research is exemplary, and his subject absorbing. - Observer
Anthony Quinn’s novels just get better... Parallels with contemporary London lurk just below the surface. This is not only an exciting thriller and a touching, stop-start love story but a seriously important book. - Tablet
All the ingredients of an upmarket page-turner. - Mail on Sunday
A story that brings alive an area of Camden that saw massive social change in a short space of time: the explosion of the railways and the shoe-horning of thousands of semi-starved people into slums provide a backdrop. - Camden New Journal
Anthony Quinn was born in Liverpool in 1964. Since 1998 he has been the film critic of the Independent. His first novel, The Rescue Man, won the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award in 2009. His second novel, Half of the Human Race, was published in 2011.