Review: The Lambs of London, Peter Carkroyd

Five bitchy remarks in response to The Lambs of London:

1. I cannot keep Peter Carey and Peter Ackroyd straight in my head. Both of them write books that sound like I would love them, and then I never love them. So I am doing like Mother Jaguar. I graciously wave my tail, and I shall call it Peter Carkroyd. And I shall leave it alone.

2. Can’t not mention this when talking about Peter Carkroyd because it is horrifying. Peter Carkroyd is also notable for writing the book Oscar and Lucinda, which was made into a movie starring Cate Blanchett and Ralph Fiennes. The film is narrated by someone who calls Oscar “my grandfather”, so all the way through the movie you assume that awkward Cate Blanchett and awkward Ralph Fiennes are eventually going to get together, to produce the father of the narrating grandchild. But does that happen? NO! Awkward Ralph Fiennes gets very ill taking a church-on-a-raft to the Amazon or the Australian outback or someplace and finally flops limply and near death into a settlement, and a woman in the settlement is like “Oh, poor dear, I will take care of him,” and he’s all “I’m near death” and she takes him home and rapes his semiconscious self and the next morning he goes into the church-on-a-raft to pray for forgiveness for seducing the woman (this takes place way back in the day before they knew about sex), and the church-on-a-raft sinks and he drowns. And then the end of the movie is, like, the narrator turns out to be this old guy telling this story to his own granddaughter, who is, like, ten years old. Not cool, Peter Carkroyd and assorted film people. Not cool. And scarred me and Social Sister for life.

3. Charles and Mary Lamb, the fictionalized subjects of The Lambs of London, are people who just don’t interest me. I don’t know why. Mary Lamb went crazy and stabbed her mother in the throat, and Charles Lamb had to look after her for the rest of his life. I love craziness, and I love devoted brothers. Why I wouldn’t be interested in a) them or b) a novel about them is beyond me. But it’s true. I don’t care about Charles and Mary Lamb. I just don’t.

4. The other historical storyline in The Lambs of London is about William Henry Ireland, the famous Shakespeare forger who forged a ton of documents in Shakespeare’s hand and eventually got caught. I actually am interested in this, but Peter Carkroyd dealt with it so boringly and with so little insight or novelty that by the end of the book I was actually less interested in William Henry Ireland than I was when I started.

5. Peter m.f. Carkroyd. Why do we even let you write books?

  • No,…Peter Carkroyd should not be writing books, as I read that bit about the floating church/man rape and I felt like I had to wash my eyeballs out with bleach. Not cool Carkroyd. And since I don’t know anything about Charles and Mary Lamb, other than what you’ve just told me, I don’t care about them either. Your last sentence states exactly what I feel for Dan Brown. I may have uttered the sentence “Someone needs to take his pencils away” several hundreds of times, and to mixed audiences, which has earned me great ire. I will take a humble bow now.

    • You think YOU had to wash your eyeballs out with bleach! I saw it ON FILM and it was AWFUL. Steer clear. :p

      Also, if someone took Dan Brown’s pencils he would just write his historically absurd but nevertheless a bit fun stories in pen.

  • More bitchy remarks!!! Loved these.

    • I was in a very bitchy mood when I wrote them. :p

  • Oh God, that part about both of them writing books that sound like I would love them – I feel the same way! Sort of. You see, every time I see a book by either of them, I usually get it. Like I have around five or six of their books in my shelves, Oscar and Lucinda included. Thing is, I haven’t read ANY! Hahaha 🙂

    • Oh no! What if you hate them all? I will cross my fingers that you have the exact opposite experience to mine and love Peter Carkroyd like crazy.

  • You’ve done much better than I have, and actually read their work cover-to-cover. I’m often intrigued by the concepts, interested for fifty pages or so, then bored to the point of abandoning the books.

    I’ve tried many, finished none.

    • That makes me feel better actually! I think The Lambs of London is the only one I’ve finished, and I might not have if I’d gotten it from the library.

  • LOL. I sometimes get on okay with Ackroyd, but Carey is boring…fun post!

    • What’s good of Ackroyd’s that you’ve read? I don’t want not to like him!

  • Jenny

    If you want to love Charles Lamb, that’s easy — just read his essays. Start with “A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig” and try his essay on the perils of lending books in “The Two Races of Men.” But I didn’t find one I didn’t like. They are gently, sweetly funny, and he puts a lot of himself in them.

    • Okay, I shall give him a try. I’m not a big fan of essays but I don’t want to be a cranky illiterate sort of person.

  • lol omg thanks for the warning I shall avoid their books at all costs!

    • You are welcome! Any time! (Bearing in mind that I have only read The Lambs of London all the way through, and nothing by Carey because Oscar and Lucinda horrified me so much; and as such, my opinion on this subject is very close to worthless.)

  • Lu

    I am reading Oscar & Lucinda for book club! I hope I like it at least a little bit…

    • I hope you do too! And, um, sorry I spoiled the ending for you. Maybe they changed it for the movie!

  • I picked up a book on the Lambs when I was in the Oxfam bookshop yesterday. I did donate a load of books, but somehow I seem to emerge with more than I went in with. It’s sounds an interesting story, let’s see how Non-Carkroyd tells it.
    ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ definitely off my reading list! I did enjoy Ackroyd’s ‘Biography of London’ though.

    • I have that! And am still looking forward to reading it, in spite of my bad experience with Lambs of London.

  • All my enthusiasm for reading OSCAR AND LUCINDA, or seeing the film version, just died a gruesome death.

    Sidebar: I thought I was going to like TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG ever so much, but I got super-duper frustrated with it because there was minimal punctuation. I cannot enjoy poorly punctuated things, no matter how clever they may be. So I abandoned the book and bitched about it to lots of people. That was, like, seven or eight years ago and I’m still bitching about it. Blarg.

    • Yeah, dude, you might still like the book, I do not know its life, but do not watch that insane m.f. movie. It is so disturbing. Poor Ralph Fiennes is all wobbly and unconscious, and the widow lady with her hoop skirt — AAAA. Burned into my brain FOREVER.

      Quite right to bitch about no punctuation! What did God give us punctuation for if not to use it!

  • That was my reaction to reading Oscar and Lucinda, so I’ve never tried the film version.

    Although lots of people liked them, so I guess the problem isn’t him/them writing the books, it’s with letting me read them. I don’t get many chances to ban books, so maybe I’ll ban myself from reading Carkroyd.

    • So did the same thing happen in the book? The very disturbing rape scene and then he drowns in the glass church even though he’s terrified of water?

  • *beats breast* It’s all my fault. I suggested it to Grammy, and then I tracked it down for her. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. (But it DID sound like you would love it.)

    • Oh hell. I forgot Grammy gave it to me. Oh dear, I have just said a lot of very bitchy remarks about a sweet and thoughtful gift. This is why I shouldn’t let so much time elapse before I read books I get as gifts! This exact reason! Mea maxima culpa, definitely not tua. :(:(:(:(:(

  • I have no idea who Peter A. is. I always think of Dan Ackroyd when I see his name and wonder why one of the Blues Brothers is writing fiction.

    • *giggles* Peter A writes about British topics or something.

  • I read this several years ago and wasn’t impressed because I love Lamb’s essays (The Superannuated Man is my favorite). Your post made me laugh out loud. Or snort.

    • Well, it’s nice to know that a Lamb fan was also not impressed by this book. I thought my Lamb ignorance was causing me to judge it unfairly.

  • Um, your question? I would assume YES, “Peter Carkroyd are far too lofty to care about a dumb blog post.” NowBut a devoted assistant might take offense. I’ll hope that nothing comes of it.

    I read Oscar and Lucinda! I saw the movie! I do not recall the incident you speak of or I just didn’t take much offense? All I recall is the glass church. I do have the right book?

    • I’ll hope that nothing comes of it too. That would be very embarrassing and I would always know I had done something awkward.

      Yes! The glass church! Absolutely the right book! He drowns in the glass church and it’s awful. Does the rape thing not happen in the book? Did your subconscious prove much more charitable than mine and repress the whole incident?

  • I read Oscar and Lucinda years ago (here we go again) and I did enjoy it and have no memory whatsoever of subconscious rapes taking place. But we are talking many years ago and I was probably so innocent then that I had no idea what was happening. Around about that time I read my first Peter Ackroyd, Chatterton, and I also enjoyed that (although I remember the ending was brutal). But it is true that my enthusiasm for their books subsequently has died, and as ever you put your finger on it by lumping the two together. They are oddly alike.

    • Okay, now that’s two of you not remembering the rape scene. Do you think the movie stuck it in there? Why would they! What a weird thing to add to a movie! It’s not like the public is clamoring for more rape scenes in Hollywood films (I don’t imagine — are they?).

      What happens in Chatterton?

  • gaskella

    It just goes to prove that everyone is different. I’m currently reading O&L and loving it. I also admire and occasionally love Ackroyd. Love your post though! 🙂

  • Social Sister

    Awful Oscar and Lucinda–horrible image of her hop hop hopping on top of his semi-conscious self. I really do wonder now if Hollywood added that gratuitously disturbing rape scene. Judgment all around.

  • Is THAT what Oscar and Lucinda is about?! OMG. Thankfully, I gave away my unread copy years ago.

  • I loved the new name you have created – Peter Carkroyd 🙂 I don’t know whether I will read Peter Ackroyd, but I am hoping to read Peter Carey sometime. Sorry you didn’t like this book much. I think Charles and Mary Lamb led an interesting life and even collaborated in their literary work. It looks like Ackroyd didn’t do a great job of bringing that out.

  • ar eader

    If you do want to investigate the Lambs further, there is a good biography by Sarah Burton:

    A Double Life: A Biography of Charles and Mary Lamb