Dan Leno And The Limehouse Golem

Throughout the morning, from the middle of the night until some time after lunch, continuous pattering from overhead; swishing of wet wheels and gentle breezes outside, signalled return of the rains; when they ceased indigo skies required inside lights to remain switched on for me, even beside my window, to complete my reading of

Although the imagined golem is briefly described in the book, this is not really about the magical mythical clay creature brought to life in Jewish legend; more about the panic instilled in a gullible public horrified by a set of serial killings.

Ackroyd has created a thrilling murder mystery story displaying his in-depth knowledge of the less salubrious sights, sounds and smells of mid-Victorian London; the atmosphere, popularity, and practices of the Music Hall stage and its performers; poets, novelists, and other notable personalities of the time all woven into the fabric of a tale beginning with a trial and ending with a hanging – but not quite as expected.

The professional name of George Wild Galvin was Dan Leno, considered “the funniest man on earth”. His influence pervades the music hall, although he is not the main protagonist carrying the stage element of the story. The British Museum reading room is the location linking writers and others, some of whom are familiar with Limehouse, one of the most deprived areas of the capital, which is presented in all its unsavoury aspects.

Just as he interweaves all the aspects of his story and his invented characters he skilfully brings his historical people into play.

Ackroyd’s prose is fluid and well paced with a good grasp of credible dialogue. Chapters are of varying lengths usually presented from differing viewpoints. Indeed this 1994 novel could almost read as the script for a film to which it was adapted in 2016 under the title of “The Limehouse Golem”.

The novel was acclaimed by various UK newspapers and by the New York Review of Books.

This evening we all dined on succulent chicken Kiev; roast potatoes both crisp white and soft sweet; juicy ratatouille; tender runner beans and broccoli stems, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Garnacha.

Woodland And Moorland

This morning I finished reading ‘Our Mutual Friend’ by Charles Dickens, and scanned the last three of Charles Keeping’s superb illustrations to my Folio Society edition of 1982.

‘Riderhood went over backward, Bradley Headstone upon him’

‘They both laughed, till they were tired’

‘A canopy of wet blanket seems to descend upon the company’

Christopher Hibbert’s introduction is useful and insightful.

I have to say that I found this novel at times quite heavy going. Hibbert opines that the author found the work difficult to write.

Dickens deals with the contrast between the false lives of the nouveau riche and the hardship and poverty of those living from hand to mouth. It is perhaps his distaste for the former group that makes their sequences boring to me.

The sets of parallel pairings of characters I found somewhat confusing – perhaps because I took so long to read the book. This possibly only became clear during the author’s typical summing up of how the protagonists lives panned out.

Dickens’s pacing, descriptive prose, and dry wit is still in evidence despite his struggle to complete the book.

Sensing that the River Thames itself is an important character sent me back to Peter Ackroyd’s history “Thames: Sacred River”. This former Literary Editor of The Times deals at length with our famous Victorian novelist’s drawing on the capital’s waterway, none more extensive than in ‘Our Mutual Friend’.

After lunch we sent a Birthday Card on it way from Everton Post Office, and continued briefly on a forest drive.

Burnt gorse and browned bracken straddled Holmsley Passage up which a group of women walked, passing pasturing ponies.

Among the woodland and the moorland alongside Bisterne Close grazed or dozed more ponies,

one of which enjoyed a good scratch against a convenient tree.

A log stack had been built to provide winter quarters for various forest fauna.

This evening we dined on Red Chilli’s excellent takeaway. Jackie enjoyed a Paneer Chicken starter with Saag Chicken to follow; my main choice was Tiger Prawn Dhansak. We shared Special Fried Rice and a Plain Naan. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Fleurie.