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The Lambs of London    by Peter Ackroyd order for
Lambs of London
by Peter Ackroyd
Order:  USA  Can
Nan A. Talese, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Paperback, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet

For years William Shakespeare has left readers clamoring for more. Author Peter Ackroyd has previously offered up a biography of Shakespeare, and now he follows with another book in the same vein. The Lambs of London, set in the nineteenth century, tells the story of Charles and Mary Lamb. For the brother and sister, avidly reading Shakespeare's work is an escape from their drab lives.

Charles is an aspiring writer, trapped as a clerk at the East India Company. Each night he stumbles home in a stupor from the local pub, after scholarly discussions with his friends. Mary spends her days at home, caring for her senile father and growing increasingly frustrated with her irritating mother. Both Charles and Mary are easy marks for William Ireland, an ambitious young bookseller. Ireland comes into their lives, claiming to have found a lost play by Shakespeare amongst some papers he is perusing for an elderly client. Soon other Shakespearian finds have all of London riveted. Charles and Mary are fascinated and ensnared in Ireland's claims.

Ireland makes plans to stage Shakespeare's lost play. He captures Mary's eye and Charles's friendship while he's at it. However even the best laid plans soon go awry and so The Lambs of London hurtles towards its intriguing conclusion.

As Ackroyd's story progresses, it is increasingly difficult to believe that so many people could be taken in by William Ireland's claims - although, admittedly at times, we all believe what we hope to see. The power of convincing others that you are more than they can see on the surface is also sometimes an undeniable human urge. It's these two basic human foibles that bring The Lambs of London to its foreseeable, yet interesting, conclusion.

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