Book Review: Smith by Leon Garfield

Smith by Leon Garfield 003Smith, the story of a pickpocket, was written by Leon Garfield (1921-1996).

Garfield wrote over 50 novels, most of them classified as children’s literature,
although many reviewers acknowledge an interest by adult readers as well.
Garfield wrote the book in 1967 and he was granted the Phoenix Award for it
twenty years later—the Phoenix Award recognizing books that have risen
from the ashes, from obscurity, to hold value in current times.

Smith is a delightful story of a twelve-year-old pickpocket in early London.
He lives and roams in the streets around “fat” St. Paul’s Cathedral, and is
adept at his work.  One day he picks a document from an old gentleman,
and then sees that gentleman murdered—-for what he assumes is the
piece of paper in his own pocket!

Smith lives with his two older sisters, Miss Bridget and Miss Fanny, in the
cellar of the Red Lion’s Tavern.  The sisters’ livelihood is in scouring, cleaning
and altering the “cast-off” clothing of the hanged men at Newgate Prison.
These clothes from the unfortunates still have good wear left in them–and
the sisters fix them up and sell them.  Talk about a “mosaic economy”!  (See
my post on that book September 17, 2013).

The “knot” in this delicious little yarn is the fact that although Smith feels
he has a valuable piece of paper in his pocket—a deed perhaps, or some way
for him to find a fortune—neither he nor his sisters can read it to find out!

This Dickensian tale has a full range of rogues and scalawags and enough
twists and turns and surprises in the plot to keep anyone happy on a cold
winter night.  Go for it!

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3 Responses to Book Review: Smith by Leon Garfield

  1. FictionFan says:

    I re-read this one recently and loved it just as much as first time round. 🙂

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