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The Lambs of London

3.13 of 5 stars 3.13  ·  rating details  ·  1,222 ratings  ·  134 reviews
From the author of Chatterton and Shakespeare: A Biography comes a gripping novel set in London that re-imagines an infamous 19th-century Shakespeare forgery. Charles and Mary Lamb, who will in time achieve lasting fame as the authors of Tales from Shakespeare for Children, are still living at home, caring for their dotty and maddening parents. Reading Shakespeare is the s ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 10th 2007 by Anchor (first published 2003)
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Dec 15, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want Shakespeare made more interesting
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
A short sharp burst of creamy historical fiction goodness from Peter Ackroyd; a man who is basically a big walking encyclopaedia of London in "days of yore". I've read both Hawksmoor, The Fall of Troy and The House of Dr Dee and although I wasn't that enamoured of Dr Dee, Hawksmoor gets a big thumbs up and 10/10 for effort, research, and all round weirdness against the magnificent backdrop of St Pauls, both past and present.

The Lambs of London deals with Charles and Mary Lamb (if you were expec
A rather strange little book for a number of reasons. In the first place, the eponymous characters, the brother-and-sister authors Charles and Mary Lamb (1775-1834 and 1764-1847 respectively) were not the main characters of this story. That honour belonged to one William Henry Ireland (1775-1835), famous as a forger of Shakespearean articles, including a complete play, Vortigern and Rowena, which was actually produced. The majority of the book tells the tale of Ireland’s attempts to foist his ha ...more
Jen Do
I was looking for something to read, so I walked to the A's in fiction, and came across this book. I did not realize until the end that it was based on real persons, Charles and Mary Lamb, actually. Perhaps if I were more familiar with the Lambs and Shakespeare's works, I might have enjoyed it more...

Although I read this short read pretty effortlessly, I never became invested in any of the characters. In the end, I felt the book only hinted at the anguish and aspirations of some of its character
In The Lambs of London, as with The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, Ackroyd delights in creating alternate realities for historically relevant literary people and having those people interact with one another in a way that they never did in real life. That being said, Ackroyd so deftly interweaves historical fact with fiction that you have to be sure to read up on the actual accounts of people like Charles and Mary Lamb, lest you end up saying something stupid and factually incorrect when tryin ...more
It's a nice, easy read, fairly entertaining, falling a little flat at the end. Apparently based on painstaking research, though if it had been completely made-up, it would have made little difference to me. There are two rather jarring sex scenes that have no connection with the story and which I felt where there just for the sake of it. Other flashbacks and side tracks, for example about the missing girl Anne, also remain unconnected and, unlike in a novel like Woolf's "Mrs Dalloway," they do n ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Lambs of London, despite the title, is mostly about Ireland his foregery of Shakespeare's plays. It is not a boring book, but there is something lacking in it. At times the writer feels one step removed from some of the characters, in particular Mary Lamb who disappers for a section of the novel. The real focus of the novel is William Ireland and his relationship with his father. Ackroyd does an excellent job there showing how the family works. The title, however, is extremely misleading. Ac ...more
Anastasia Hobbet
A wildly improbable story, written with little grace, perspective, regard to history or respect for the reader.

This was my first Peter Ackroyd book, an unfortunate choice because he has written some that are considered excellent. You have to wonder, with material like the Lambs to work with, why he would change so many of the basic facts of their lives together. I read on to the end because of the chance the book gives for a gritty glimpse of the time: Ackroyd is celebrated for his knowledge of
Matt Poland
I have enjoyed several of Ackroyd's biographies and histories, so I was dismayed by this inconsistent, oddly cynical pastiche. As in his other work, Ackroyd is at his best describing the pungency of premodern London street life. The scene in which William Henry Ireland takes Mary Lamb in a boat across the Thames to tour the site of The Globe in Southwark is absorbing. History provided Ackroyd with two rich but unconnected stories: Charles and Mary Lamb -- whose Tales from Shakespeare outlived th ...more
Charles and Mary Lamb, are still living at their parents' home. Charles who is an aspiring writer bored stiff by his job as a clerk at the East India Company, enjoys a drink or three too many each night at the local pub. His sister, Mary, is trapped in domesticity, (I know big words here) caring for her ailing, dotty father and her maddening mother. The siblings' enchantment with Shakespeare provides a much-needed escape, and they delight in reading and quoting the great bard. When William Irela ...more
I have long wanted to read Peter Ackroyd and I came upon this book in a used bookstore, so home it came. The story was well-paced and engaging but certainly not a must-read. It centers around Charles and Mary Lamb, fictionalized here, and Mary's acquaintance with the son of the bookseller, who claims to have found some original works of Shakespeare. Anyone very into Shakespeare, or Charles Lamb, would enjoy this book.
Surprisingly sweet and poignant. It wasn't as gripping as the book cover anecdotes would have you think but nonetheless it was a small shocker of an ending, not the way I thought it would go.

Bear with the writing style, it's of its moment and whilst it takes some getting into it does get easier. You get engrossed in the story so just don't notice it as much.

I'm not sure if you're supposed to like the characters and I won't say any more for fear of spoilers but I will say that I find it hard to
Ah, I had hopes for this one!

Good sides first: Ackroyd really catches the feel of history (or at least, he makes one believe he does, which is as well), makes it seem like an actual time that once was real, as opposed to some kind of fantasy land. I liked the details and the way he looked past the usual in historical fiction.

But the plot. Hm. I feel like the twist was pretty predictable (though I only half saw it coming because I kept hoping he wouldn't go there). Looking back, I'm not quite su
Susan Rose
Plot: This is the semi-biographical story of Charles and Mary Lamb, avid readers and fanatical in their love of Shakespeare, as they meet William Ireland an antiquarian book dealer who has made an unusual discovery.

Since a lot of the events in this book are a matter of historical record, you may know some of the events of this book before you read it. I'm still going to be as vague plot wise as possible because I went in with very little knowledge and I enjoyed the surprises. All I knew of Char
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fiona Robson
“Mary Lamb is confined by the restrictions of domesticity: her father is losing his mind, her mother watchful and hostile. The great solace of her life is her brother Charles, an aspiring writer. It is no surprise when Mary falls for the bookseller's son, antiquarian William Ireland, from whom Charles has purchased a book. But this is no ordinary book - it once belonged to William Shakespeare himself. And William Ireland with his green eyes and his red hair, is no ordinary young man...

The Lambs
Louise (A Strong Belief in Wicker)
I enjoyed this book well enough, but really wish that it was more about The Lambs of London than it was. I find Charles and Mary Lamb both fascinating individually, and also together. Siblings, they wrote Tales from Shakespeare- a book that has been in print continually since 1807- an astonishing feat in and of itself. But their private lives are even more intriguing. Mary suffered from a mental illness and killed their mother. Charles continued to protect and look after, and live with his siste ...more
This story of forgery is loosely based on historical people. Both the Ireland and the Lambs truly have lived, and their story is similar to that in the book. The main difference being that in real life they never meet.
The book is lovely, the author clearly knows how to write, the story has a nice flow and though the book is rather short the character analysis and growth is enjoyable.
And the story is captivating, though you can guess that forgery is going on pretty early on (even when you do not
Probably a 3.3. Very entertaining and very easy to read but oddly unsatisfying. I wasn't perturbed by the fictional elements of the novel, in particular the blending of the Lambs' story with Wiliam Ireland, the man who was responsible for forgery of various Shakespearean papers and even a full play. The main body of the story was, in my view, the most successful. i had trouble with the number of offshoot stories, some lasting only a few paragraphs, like that of Joseph, the black servant boy and ...more
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Helen Kitson
Although the main characters in this novel are people who really existed (Charles Lamb and his sister Mary), Ackroyd makes it clear that this is not intended to be a biography (anyone interested in knowing more about the Lambs should read Kathy Watson's non-fiction book about Mary Lamb, 'The Devil Kissed Her').

Charles and Mary live with their senile father and repressive mother. Charles, who can at least escape to go to work and of course is free to go where he wants (as a 'respectable' woman co
Laine (librarianscanreadtoo)
Laine ( Review:

Charles and Mary Lamb, are still living at their parents' home. Charles who is an aspiring writer bored stiff by his job as a clerk at the East India Company, enjoys a drink or three too many each night at the local pub. His sister, Mary, is trapped in domesticity, (I know big words here) caring for her ailing, dotty father and her maddening mother. The siblings' enchantment with Shakespeare provides a much-needed escape, and they delight in readi
Aug 09, 2011 Lorna added it
Peter Ackroyd can, of course, do no wrong. That is a given. This is a shorter, easier read than many of his novels, though once again the setting is historic London. This time Ackroyd takes Charles and Mary Lamb, famous for their Tales from Shakespeare, and places them at the heart of the story of William Ireland and his audacious forgeries of 'Shakespearean' material at the end of the eighteenth century.

Mary Lamb is suffocating at home with her demented father, fussing mother and brother Charle
Hmmm, I'm not really sure what to think about this one. I picked it out of my reading list because I noticed it was a period drama based loosely on real historical figures, and I wanted to see an example of another modern author's attempt to write historical fiction. I think that I sort of enjoyed it, but I have a lot of complaints about the first half of the book.

The book is written under the conceit that well-known Shakespeare forger from the late 18th century, William Ireland, gets to know Ch
I picked this book up (one of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die) after reading a 30 page sample downloaded to my Kindle. I chose it out of about 15 other samples I had downloaded at the time because the characters of Mary and Charles Lamb in this novel intrigued me. (I checked my copy out of the library because at 213 pages it's a fairly short read.)

I'm torn between giving this three or four stars. Ackroyd has a wonderful feel for historic London, and the writing and pace of the plot is very
When I was in elementary school, I bought a book called Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. It was a book for children that included prose versions of Shakespeare's plays. I loved that book and it was how I first became familiar with Shakespeare's stories, long before I was old enough to understand and appreciate the actual plays. The Lambs of London is a fictional account of the lives of Charles and Mary Lamb and their preoccupation with all things Shakespeare. The Lambs lived at t ...more
Brenda Clough
Fascinating in the beginning, but I have the sense that the author lost interest towards the end. Gradually it shifts to exposition, and events are rushed and compressed, in contrast to the more careful examination at the beginning. As in many historical-fiction novels, the actual historical events feel as if they trammel the creative power. Even though the author already has taken many liberties with the historical record -- the Lambs never had any contact with Ireland -- I wish he had dared to ...more
This was quite entertaining. I read the book in German translation and for obvious reasons that is a disadvantage. Apparently Peter Ackroyd has written a Shakespeare biography, which seems poignant to me, given the subject of this book, which is about forgery. Since the Shakespeare authorship debate involves mutual accusations of imposture and fraud and forgery, it tickles me that someone who presumably believes that the writer Shakespeare was the same person as Shakspear from Stratford provides ...more
Enjoyable but underwhelming, I can't believe this is one of Ackroyd's best efforts. He has a wonderful feel for London and a keen eye for period, but this fictional usage of historical characters Charles and Mary Lamb and William Ireland is not a total success. The depth of characterisation is just not there, and while it starts very much with Lamb as the focus, by the end of the novel he is reduced to a bystander. Early on we are privy to Mary's thoughts, but later we only see her through the e ...more
Maggie White
Written well in the style of a 19th century novel. This helps to give the novel age authenticity although actually written in 2004. Mary Lamb is obsessed with all things Shakespeare so when young Mr Ireland starts showing her previously undiscovered works of the bard she becomes very attached to him. Her brother Charles is more cautious and tries to protect Mary from any hurt.
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age
More about Peter Ackroyd...
London: The Biography The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling Hawksmoor London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets Shakespeare: The Biography

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