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The Lambs of London

3.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,353 Ratings  ·  147 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Shovelmonkey1
Dec 15, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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Frank
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
Nov 14, 2009 Jen Do rated it it was ok
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
...more
Darcy
Jan 29, 2014 Darcy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Virtuella
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
Chris
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
Becky
Jul 30, 2009 Becky rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fabian
Oct 15, 2015 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Riveting, complex and super well-written, "The Lambs of London" is yet another fully submersive foray into a previous age from Ackroyd, whose magnum opus I feel to be "Hawksmoor." Here, we deal not with gothic architecture but with the Bard himself, ultimate emblem for all good British things. But what is fascinating ends up in a predictable fashion, and this is my only bitch. As a whole, it is elusive, distinguished, unforgettable.
Anastasia Hobbet
Feb 25, 2013 Anastasia Hobbet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
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
...more
Christine
Jan 15, 2016 Christine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-book
Some interesting facts cobbled together to make a story that is rather lightweight. A very quick and easy read. I will read more of Peter Ackroyd's fiction.
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
ShelbyLibrary
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
S.
Apr 09, 2013 S. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
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.
Sally Tarbox
Mar 30, 2016 Sally Tarbox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Why, this is a treasure, Mr Ireland. It was once owned by William Shakespeare", 30 March 2016

This review is from: The Lambs of London (Hardcover)
Set at the beginning of the 19th century - not so vastly long ago, yet long enough that antiquarians of the time might have Elizabethan documents among their treasures. In this most enjoyable fiction, Ackroyd conflates two true stories: that of Charles and Mary Lamb, academic siblings living a stifling life with their senile father and authorative mot
...more
Jenn
Jan 12, 2016 Jenn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
The star of this short novel is London itself, which is probably correct for a writer who specialises in writing about the city. I loved the bringing to life of pre-industrial London, the narrow streets and river crossings and the famous characters of 18th century history like Sheridan.
The story revolves round one William Ireland, a book seller, who miraculously produces Shakesperian relics and discovers a forgotten Shakeperian play to the delight of an astonished London public. He encounters Ch
...more
Danielle
I'd rather give this one 2.5 stars. This is a fictionalized account of a true story in the lives of Charles and Mary Lamb, a brother and sister who bonded through literature, and William Ireland, a man who produced documents that he attributed to Shakespeare. This book was interesting enough to get me to read up on the facts after I finished and I wasn't surprised to see that there doesn't seem to have been a connection between the Lambs and Ireland. Ackroyd's effort to put the stories together ...more
Bob
Apr 25, 2016 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My second Ackroyd after Hawksmoor - another "historical fiction" of a sort, though he is usually getting at some other point, the nature of authenticity, in this case, and parent and child conflict.
For background, a well-educated person would know something of the life of siblings Charles and Mary Lamb (I know only enough for the frequent appearance of "ELIA" in crossword puzzles) and one would have to be several more steps immersed in late 18th century London literary life to have heard of Will
...more
Tommy
Sep 09, 2015 Tommy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although having previously read a Peter Ackroyd book and knowing of his passion for writing historical fiction, I was still ignorant to the fact that the characters in this tale were based on real people. Not being a reader of Shakespeare, the names of Mary and Charles Lamb meant nothing to me but reading is knowledge after all! I cant say if not knowing of these characters along with bookseller William Ireland was a benefit or hindrance to my enjoyment of this book but I have found in the past ...more
Candy Wood
If English majors still learn anything about Charles and Mary Lamb, they will know part of what eventually happens in the novel. The Shakespeare-forgery plot is not as familiar but also historical, so that it would take someone more versed in the late 18th-early 19th century period than I am to distinguish all of Ackroyd’s inventions from the documented facts. I enjoyed the London detail, including an excursion to Southwark to visit the Globe site and an account of a Drury Lane performance and i ...more
Julia
Apr 13, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Yulia
May 18, 2014 Yulia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...more
Bonnie
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
...more
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
Ann
Sep 19, 2013 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Deborah
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
Emily
Jul 22, 2010 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laine (librarianscanreadtoo)
Laine (librarianscanreadtoo.blogspot.com) 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
...more
Lorna
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
...more
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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
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