The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd focuses on the adult children of the Lamb family, Mary and Charles. Mary is a pock-marked, semi recluse, who only has one friend – her brother. Charles is an aspiring writer, but works in a soul killing job as an accountant. One day their lives cross with another young man, William Ireland. Recently William has stumbled upon a cache of Shakespeare’s old papers and unpublished plays, which he shares with the Lambs. Mary falls in love with William and together they walk around the city all like, “Shakespeare is awesome, man! Can you imagine he maybe stood where we are standing now?!” Charles really digs Shakespeare too and, although he thinks William is a fine enough chap for a low-birther, he just doesn’t buy the authenticity of the papers. Eventually it comes out that William forged the papers and Mary goes ape shit and kills her mom and ends up in the loony bin.
The subject of the story is a guy who writes in the style of a time gone by. He does a passable job, but everyone pretty much knows it’s a fake because there are things that are just not quite right about the style. The same could be said of Peter Ackroyd. Although he captures the language from the era in which he is writing, it was very unnatural, contrived and so very melodramatic. The story itself wasn’t very interesting. Extra characters were introduced as if they were going to be important, then played no real part. And then the old weak dispositioned, hysterical woman bit. I just couldn’t take it.
When I finished the book I allowed myself to read other reviews and found out that the Lambs and Ireland were real people, although their lives never actually intersected. Mary did have a breakdown and did kill her mother. When I read that I had to apologize to Mr. Ackroyd at the same time as I rolled my eyes and moaned, “Oh, come on…” Then I continued reading to find out that it didn’t happen over a disappointing, unrequited love, but because she was forced to care for a family full on invalids. Enough to break anyone, wandering womb or no. In general the story seems very, very loosely based on these real life people, so there was no reason this story it couldn’t have been better. Like all around better. Like in every single aspect.