Sunday, 28 August 2011
Title: Derby Day
Author: D.J. Taylor
Number of pages: 404
Started: 25 August 2011
Finished: 28 August 2011
Sky the colour of a fish's underside; grey smoke diffusing over a thousand house-fronts; a wind moving in from the east: London.
As the shadows lengthen over the June grass, all England is heading for Epsom Downs – high life and low life, society beauties and Whitechapel street girls, bookmakers and gypsies, hawkers and acrobats, punters and thieves. Whole families stream along the Surrey back-roads, towards the greatest race of the year. Hopes are high, nerves are taut, hats are tossed in the air – this is Derby Day.
For months people have been waiting and plotting for this day. Even in dark November, when the wind whistles through the foggy London courts, the alehouses and gentlemen’s clubs echo to the sound of disputed odds. In Belgrave Square old Mr Gresham is baffled by his tigerish daughter Rebecca, whose intentions he cannot fathom. In the clubs of St James’s rakish Mr Happerton plays billiards with his crony Captain Raff, while in darkest Lincolnshire sad Mr Davenant broods over his financial embarrassments and waits for his daughter’s new governess. Across the channel the veteran burglar Mr Pardew is packing his bags to return, to the consternation of the stalwart detective Captain McTurk. Everywhere money jingles and plans are laid. Uniting them all is the champion horse Tiberius, on whose performance half a dozen destinies depend.
What I thought:
This was a Victorian novel based around the Derby. Horse related books and most Victorian novels are not really my thing, and this book did nothing to change my view on that. It was partly a detective novel, and partly a tale of human relationships, but it never really came to life for me. I also thought the book could have been shorter.
That said, I think this book will hold rather more appeal to others. It just wasn’t for me.