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The Great Stink

Clark, Clare

1,184 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0156030888 / ISBN 13: 9780156030885
Published by Harvest Books, Harcourt, U.S.A., 2006
New Condition: New Soft cover
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1st Edition-Stated. 1st Printing-Full # Line. New copy. Never read. Trade paperback. BEAUTIFUL copy of Book & Cover. COLLECTOR'S COPY. Bookseller Inventory # 002096

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Great Stink

Publisher: Harvest Books, Harcourt, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 2006

Binding: Soft cover

Book Condition:New

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

Clare Clark's critically acclaimed The Great Stink "reeks of talent" (The Washington Post Book World) as it vividly brings to life the dark and mysterious underworld of Victorian London. Set in 1855, it tells the story of William May, an engineer who has returned home to London from the horrors of the Crimean War. When he secures a job trans­forming the city's sewer system, he believes that he will be able to find salvation in the subterranean world beneath the city. But the peace of the tunnels is shattered by a murder, and William is implicated as the killer. Could he truly have committed the crime? How will he bring the truth above-ground? With richly atmospheric prose, The Great Stink combines fact and fiction to transport readers into London's putrid past, and marks the debut of a remarkably talented writer in the tradition of the very best historical novelists.

Review:

It takes a world of confidence to name your debut novel The Great Stink, and to set it in a sewer. Not even a modern sewer--charmless though that may be--but the crumbling, cholera-laden, rat-infested, fungus-rich sewers of London in the mid-Victorian period, from which pockets of deadly gas frequently burbled to the surface. Clare Clark's unsavory but completely absorbing first novel is a Dantean tour of this reeking underworld and its denizens: both the scavengers--human and animal--and the reformers, who brave the tunnels in the service of public hygiene and social progress after the 1858 Act of Parliament that called for the rebuilding of the sewer system.

The Great Stink juxtaposes two darknesses, both embodied in the filthy tunnels: the lawless desperation of the very poor, and the despair of madness. One of the junior engineers most useful in mapping the existing sewer is William May, a studious, methodical veteran of the Crimean War who manages to conceal from everyone but his wife the horrors he brought out of battle with him. The tunnels don't frighten William; they provide isolation and silence for the bloody rites that keep the Mr. Hyde in him at bay. It seems only a matter of time before William's self-destruction turns outward. Long Arm Tom, his counterpart among the poor, is a "tosher." He enters the tunnels illegally, scraping the sludge for coins or other booty, and trapping hundreds of rats for fighting against dogs at local taverns (all the rage for sporting gentlemen since dog fights have been outlawed). Kindness is a liability in Tom's world, but two acts of pity--one toward a dog, and one, more grudgingly, toward William--provide the resistance that changes the course of this otherwise relentlessly dire story.

The very weak-stomached may need a cup of mint tea or a bowl of potpourri beside them as they wade through the sewer with Tom and William. Clark has spared readers none of the stink, nor the sharp pleasures of suspense. --­Regina Marler

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