London ‘is an archipelago of life’, declares Alexander Baron in the opening pages of this novel. ‘The millions of Londoners are really broken up into tens of thousands of little clusters of life. Each is gathered round some centre, perhaps a street … Within each of these little hives people live for each other as well as for themselves, and life generates a comfortable warmth.’ Rosie Hogarth is about one such little hive in the years immediately after the Second World War. Lamb Street is a respectable, inward looking working class enclave in south Islington, close to the Angel and to Chapel Market. The novel stands out for its profound sense of place. But alongside the warmth of community is the chill of exclusion..

Rosie Hogarth

The ‘man or woman who tries to settle in London without gaining admission to one of these communities’, Baron writes in the same passage, ‘… is like a lonely traveller wandering, as night gathers, across the vast deserted moors, mocked wherever he looks by the clustering lights of villages. He is on his own, and he can go mad or die for all anybody cares.’

Baron’s novel is about Jack Agass’s readmission into the Lamb Street community where he grew up after years away at war and working abroad. Agass, a little like his creator, doesn’t easily fit – he’s not a social animal. And the war has wreaked changes in Lamb Street – and not least to the life of the woman Jack regards as his soulmate, the elusive Rosie Hogarth.

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