The Walworth Beauty
Author and poet Michèle Roberts discusses her work, in particular her new book The Walworth Beauty, a sensuous and evocative novel exploring prostitution and poverty in Victorian London.
2011: When Madeleine loses her job, she decides to leave her riverside flat in the heart of the city, where history never feels far away, and move to Apricot Place. Yet here too, in this quiet south London cul-de-sac, she senses the past encroaching, a shifting in the atmosphere.
1851: Joseph Benson has been employed by Henry Mayhew to research his articles on the working classes (which will be published as London Labour and the London Poor). A family man with mouths to feed, Joseph is tasked with coaxing testimony from prostitutes. Roaming the Southwark streets, tempted by the brothels’ promises of pleasure, he struggles with his assignment – and seeks help in Apricot Place, where the enigmatic Mrs Dulcimer resides. As these two stories unfold, they begin to entwine, and the ghosts of the city’s past erupt in the present.
In association with Bristol Women’s Literature Festival.
Photo credit: Viv Pegram