The Burglar Caught by the Skeleton, by Jeremy Clay, is the first book I read as part of Non Fic November. When I first picked it out I expected a book filled with lively retellings of a few bizarre stories from Victorian newspapers, but that’s not really what I came away with.
Pretty much all the stories were quite sensational, but I still got quite bored. This was a very long book, filled with lots and lots of pretty similar articles, divided into sections (Animals, Love, Marriage and Family, Eating and Drinking, Health and Medicine, Coincidence and Luck, Sport, Hobbies and Pastimes, Inventions, Life and Death, Superstition, Belief and Supernatural, Crime and Punishment, Wagers, Accidents and Disasters, Fashion and Clothes, Arts and Entertainment). I would have preferred him to include less stories, and expand on them himself. Is it bad that my favourite parts of the book were Clay’s chapter introductions? He’s funny, and charming, and has the kind of voice that makes you want to keep reading… however, he had this habit of describing a story in quite a lot of detail and then putting that same story in the section… it seemed like slightly unnecessary repetition. I just wish he’d have included more of his own writing in the book!
I quite enjoyed the glaringly obvious creative liberties taken by the journalists of yore (which were so extensive I’m not sure this book should count as non-fiction), and the sheer volume of articles entitled ‘a remarkable incident’, but I found it quite a dry read. When I was younger (well, ever since first reading Jane Eyre really) I used to dream about living during Victorian times… but after reading about all the escaped lions, and poison, and death by coffin, and dodgy medicine, I’m just not so sure!
I wouldn’t recommend reading it as a you would a novel – it just doesn’t have the best ‘flow’ (and it took me FOREVER to get through!). However, I would say this is a great book to dip into if you’re looking for a bit of writing inspiration… it’s definitely a great source of interesting plot lines!