Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Devil's Acre

The Devil's Acre by Matthew Plampin

Proof that Amazon's 'you might also like' strategy works - this was a recommendation via Amazon when I was buying something else, and it enticed me so I bought it. I've been reading lots of novels set in the nineteenth century lately. This one is set in the early 1850s in London. The Houses of Parliament are still being built, behind Westminster Abbey is a slum area known as the Devil's Acre.

The book is a fiction based on fact, and tells the tale of the short-lived Colt gun factory set on the banks of the Thames. There's lots of political manoevreing as the larger-than-life character of Samuel Colt attempts to get the government to buy his weapons for the forthcoming war with Russia. A group of disaffected Irish work in the factory and are trying to smuggle guns out for their own purposes. The novel is told mostly from the point of view of Colt's (fictional) secretary, an ambitious young man who falls in love with a factory girl who has been forced into helping the Irish mob. He (Lowry) is torn between wanting to improve his chances by working hard for Colt, his love for the girl, and his unease about the arms trade. It's a fascinating novel, covering a very interesting period of history, and is a good example of bringing actual historical figures to life.

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