At this festive time of year you often hear people say that they would love to have a “Dickensian Christmas.” You know, that highly stylized Victorian-era look and feel that might have been seen in a screen version of A Christmas Carol?

As a Dickens fan, I was always curious about this idea, as Dickens presents a rather drab, realistic picture of what London was like back in the day, and I can assure you it was not all Fezziwig’s Christmas ball.

In the wonderfully researched and presented book, The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London, author Judith Flanders takes us on a tour of the great city in those years. Once you dive into this richly detailed book, you will never want to have a Dickensian Christmas again. Hint: think open sewers, deadly epidemics, and coal smoke-filled air – just for starters.

About The Victorian City by Judith Flanders:

“The nineteenth century was a time of unprecedented change, and nowhere was this more apparent than London, which, in only a few decades, grew from a compact Regency town into the largest city the world had ever seen. Technology-railways, street-lighting, and sewers-transformed both the city and the experience of city-living. From the moment Charles Dickens, the century’s best-loved novelist and London’s greatest observer, arrived in the city in 1822, he obsessively walked its streets, recording its pleasures, curiosities and cruelties. Now, with him, Judith Flanders leads us through the markets, transport systems, rivers, slums, alleys, cemeteries, gin palaces, chop-houses and entertainment emporia of Dickens’ London, to reveal the Victorian capital in all its variety, vibrancy, and squalor. From the colorful cries of street-sellers to the uncomfortable reality of travel by omnibus, to the many uses for the body parts of dead horses and the unimaginably grueling working days of hawker children, no detail is too small, or too strange. No one who reads Judith Flanders’s meticulously researched, captivatingly written The Victorian City will ever view London in the same light again.”

The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers everywhere.