Kristen's Reviews > Sweeney Todd: The Real Story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sweeney Todd by Peter Haining
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May 25, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: non-fiction, didnt-finish
Recommended for: no-one
Read from May 25 to 28, 2012 , read count: 0

Originally, I had this in my 'true crime' shelf, but had to remove it from there after my reading of the first few chapters. Although Haining tries to pass this off as a researched account proving that Sweeney Todd did truly exist in London, he fails abysmally. The writing is not terrible, and many of the facts about London culture were interesting. However, Haining fails to provide any evidence that what he claims as fact did actually occur. The first half of the book is a confused mix of "this is why Todd has to have existed", and undocumented but extremely detailed events that supposedly occurred in his lifetime, even though Haining does not mention sources or actually come to the believable conclusion that he was not a figment of fiction.

The second half of the book is devoted, not to Sweeney Todd's life and crimes, but to the media adaptations that took place through the 19th and 20th century. These are not organized chronologically; Haining jumps from a 1940's movie adaptation back to the 1800's and the first novel and back to play and then over to the introduction of the story in American culture without rhyme or reason. In addition, he packs the second half with unnecessary and unrelated facts (the entire page detailing how the actor who was famous for playing Todd went bankrupt and then died was my personal favourite), which are utterly mind-numbing.

The book read like a 'true account' of Roswell, or Big Foot sightings and not the researched historical account I was interested in. I suggest no one interested in true crime read this. If you are looking for an account of the legend and the media portrayal, choose another book that focuses on that aspect, as this author's continuous and unfounded claims of the 'truth' of the man will most likely grate your nerves, as it did mine.

I quit reading this book on chapter 17, and it therefore has been added to my 'incomplete' shelf.
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Reading Progress

05/26/2012 page 32
17.0% ""The earliest of all the stories that have claimed to be the inspiration for the... Demon Barber... dates... as far back as the fifteenth century."
Okay... If there is a 15th century song about the barber who killed people and gave their bodies to a lady who made them into pies in France, you are not going to convince me that Sweeney Todd was an actual person, Mr Haining."
05/27/2012 page 60
31.0% "I am disappointed in Haining. The switching of focus between 'documented' points in the life of Todd (when his parents died, who he was apprenticed to, how long he spent in prison, etc) is sandwiched in between arguments about why he is a real person, and not a myth... If you can prove all of these specifics of his life, than the question of his existing should not take up 7 chapters. If not, this is fiction."

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Brittany Petruzzi Try Robert Mack's 'The Wonderful and Surprising History of Sweeney Todd: The Life and Times of a Urban Legend' instead. Way better and well researched.


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