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Following Charles Dickens’s death, his friend and biographer, John Forster, discovers a ‘lost’ manuscript that provides a radically different view of the year the young author spent working in a blacking factory. But is the account fact or fiction?
In the 1820s the Dickens family arrive to start a new life in London . Charles (‘Charley’) is just eleven and looking to continue his education. However, instead of being sent to school – and as his family fall deeply into debt – he is put to work in a boot-blacking factory at Hungerford Stairs.
With his father soon cast into the Marshalsea debtors prison, Charley’s eagerness to earn an extra shilling sees him drawn into a criminal network led by the dark figure of Mr Magnus. The combination of demeaning factory work with this new and dangerous criminal activity places a huge burden on Charley, at a time when his mother and siblings are increasingly dependent on him.
Life becomes even more complicated when Charley is approached by the mysterious Mr Hesketh. How can the future novelist balance the demands of family, paid work and the London underworld amidst a situation that moves swiftly from casual abuse to violence, and ultimately the hangman’s noose?
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