I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. It reminded me that I do enjoy Ackroyd as an author, and thought that the writing style of this was much more accessible than the previous ones of his I've read.
However, it also remined me why I don't read many mystery novels as I found the twist of this one rather obvious from half way through and as such was neither surprised nor shocked by the ending.
It also reminded me the trouble with modern authors writing about the Victorian period, as they all seem to spend the first 50 pages or so going on about how much everything smells! I find this to be terribly anachronistic. If people were used to the smells back then, to talk about them just emphasies the difference between the modern reader and the period and creates an artifical barrier between them and the story.
But there were also many things I did enjoy about the story. It seemed just the right mix of fact and fiction. Historical characters doing totally made up things, that you could easily see the historical ones doing. I enjoyed his portrayal of Marx and it reminded me that I really do need to find some Gissing to read. The main protagonist Elizabeth seemed quite far removed from the narrative, even when she was being interviewed and telling first person narrative it felt like showmanship, but then she was the consumate actor. Even the title of the book throws attention away from her, the main character and onto the two leading men of the story.
I found this a short and enjoyable piece of historical fiction. It gave an interesting account of a side of 19th century living that I don't normally read about. I thought the portrayal of the musical halls was very evocative and reminded me of going and seeing punk drag shows as the level of humour and excitment was very similar.
While I guessed the plot I did still enjoy it and would definitely recommend it. I really should read more Ackroyd....Continua