Review of 'The Great Fire of London'

The Great Fire of London by Peter Ackroyd

the_great_fire_of_london.jpg You could be forgiven for thinking that this would be another historical non-fiction book by Peter Ackroyd, who is particularly well known for his weighty tome “London: The Biography”, but you would be wrong. This is Ackroyd's first book of fiction and is a modern retelling of Charles Dicken's “Little Dorrit”.

Spenser Spender comes up with an idea make a film of “Little Dorrit” using contemporary London as a film set, engaging Dicken's fanatic Rowan Phillips as writer, despite a singular lack of faith from many. Spender's wife Laetitia (“Lettuce”) is one of them. Little Arthur, proprietor of amusement arcade “Fun City” is forced to shut down so exacts his revenge. Meanwhile, Audrey Skelton is facing a crisis of confidence in her boyfriend Timothy (Tim) Coleman who is in an uncomfortable homosexual relationship with Rowan. Things are set to get very hot…

“The Great Fire of London” feels oddly stilted with it's characters fairly depressing and not terribly engaging. In that the book echoes “Little Dorrit” I cannot say as I have not read it but it perhaps this is why the characterization is so funny. The story is quite basic, it is quite short a novel, and easy enough to follow as there are not enough characters to hugely confuse. Oddly for Ackroyd there quite a good deal of sex that is mostly mechanical rather than in any way romantic as these disjointed characters (literally) go through the motions. The ending is a bit of a surprise and does not entirely convince.

In a word: “Meh” or (quite) “forgettable”.

Rating: “Average, but who wants to be average?”

Review Date: 2023-06-17

Genre: General Fiction

Publisher: Abacus

Publication Date: 1982

ISBN: 0349100608

Other reviewed books by Peter Ackroyd: