I have always been obsessed with Victorian London. Perhaps it was my grandparents reading me A CHRISTMAS CAROL, the industrialization of society, the serialization of novels, or the fascination with Christmas and Victorians’ death culture. Either way, it is a compelling time period that I’ve always gravitated to. So here are five great Victorian era books to take you back in time.
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER follows Mary Jekyll in the wake of her parents’ death. Determined to understand what happens, she tracks down her father’s former friend and known murderer Edward Hyde. Mary finds his daughter and together they investigate a secret society of power-crazed scientists experimenting on young women. Theodora Goss weaves an incredible depiction of the late Victorian era while paying homage to many beloved literary characters such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, Dr. Frankenstein, and many more. This is absolutely a must-read for fans of the Victorian era and some of its most popular literature.
We all know the classic Dickens tale A CHRISTMAS CAROL. But what happened before that? How did Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley meet and what led them to their wretched fates? MARLEY follows Scrooge and Marley’s complicated friendship from youths to young adults who engage in a business of fraud, theft, forgery, and murder, setting the stage for the beloved Dickens novel.
Another novel that pays homage to Dickens, FINGERSMITH follows a young orphan named Sue who grows up among a group of thieves. One day, a con man and beloved thief known as the Gentleman arrives with a proposition for Sue: win the position as maid to Maud Lilly, a naive and wealthy young woman. The Gentleman assures Sue that if they can both seduce this woman then they will claim her vast inheritance. However, everything changes when Sue begins to care for Maud Lilly in this twisted new take on OLIVER TWIST.
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Orphan Sue Trinder is raised amongst “fingersmiths”—transient petty thieves. When a fingersmith known as Gentleman asks Sue to help him con a wealthy woman out of her inheritance, she never expects to pity her helpless mark, let alone come to care for her. But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.
There is something about the Victorian era that makes me think about dark secrets, and THE DOLL FACTORY by Elizabeth Macneal is no exception. This impressive and disturbing Victorian psychological thriller follows an aspiring artist named Iris. At the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, she has a brief encounter with a man named Silas. Iris quickly forgets the encounter when she is asked to model for an artist named Louis Frost. She agrees on the condition that he teaches her how to paint. Suddenly, Iris’s world explodes, making her more vulnerable to Silas who has not stopped thinking about her since their chance meeting. Silas’s intentions quickly turn dark in this whirlwind thriller of art, love, and obsession.
Anne Perry has long been praised for her murder-mystery series set in the Victorian era. There are a total of twenty-four books in the William Monk series that follows a London police detective as he navigates the horrors of the city. The first novel in the series, THE FACE OF A STRANGER, follows Monk after he wakes up with no memory of his past. Slowly, he pieces enough evidence together and attempts to return to the force in order to figure out the rest. Once he’s back on the job, he’s given a case to investigate the brutal murder of a Crimean War hero. Monk is an instantly lovable character who constantly ignores the “important” class distinctions of the Victorian era and who doesn’t rest until he sees evildoers brought to justice. The William Monk novels are full of murder, mayhem, and suspense. No matter which Anne Perry book you start with, none will not disappoint.