A quickening of the blood…

I very much enjoyed The Quick, by Lauren Owen, a big gothic juicy wodge of deeply satisfying, cleverly written Victorian (melo)drama. I picked it up because of the raves from Hilary Mantel and Kate Atkinson on the back cover, and I am really glad I did, though I am not a huge reader of historical fiction.

It is a really interesting look at the grime, danger and excitement of Victorian London, a fascinating dissection of Victorian class and morals – and, yes, there are vampires. But not like you’re worried about, these are not sparkly or enchanting – some are selected from the upper classes, they choose to become vampires (lying back and thinking of England) as this is fabulous way to preserve their knowledge, education and social values, to manage Britain’s vast imperial project and the teeming, grubby and uneducated multitudes of the new industrially revolutionised cities. However, some of those multitudes are also vampires, have no wish to be managed for their own good, have their own ideas about life – or un-life – at the nasty, short and brutish end of society, and don’t see why they have to be meek to inherit anything.

It begins with two young children alone but for a couple of servants, in a decaying country manor. The older sister ends up remaining in the country while her younger brother eventually ends up in London, trying to write, meeting the love of his life, and going to the raffish and popular Oscar Wilde’s exciting and clever plays. When he is mistakenly inducted into the ‘ right sort’ of vampirism, Charlotte decides to rescue him. Much excitement, danger and romance ensue…

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