THE APPRENTICES by Leon Garfield


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Trust Leon Garfield, always literate in 18th-century London, to transform offbeat material into an engrossing read. Here he introduces a string of apprentices in separate chapters, assigns them authentic occupations and identities, and just perceptibly interlocks their stories through several months of fictional time. Thus Possul, the lamplighter's linkboy, walks by most of the characters after his opening chapter; the midwife and the mirror-frame carver both stop in the mirror-maker's house; and virtually all have some contact, passing or more lasting, with the Noades funeral. And the stories themselves have integrity. The undertaker's daughter, somewhat morbidly attached to a buried corpse, gets a living reprieve from a rival undertaker's romantic apprentice. And two pawnbroker's assistants in cahoots find their petty thievery foiled--an incident with its own redeeming features. Subtle class distinctions and the daily grime emerge as well as religious and political items: as the Jewish clockmaker's family celebrates Passover, an uninvited guest appears at the door opened for Elijah, and the printer's apprentice has the wrong stock burned to please an author's appealing daughter. Clever--an assemblage of Dickensian names (Moss, Blister, Bunting, Gully) and distinct faces.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 1978
Publisher: Viking