Ackroyd is a fascinating mix of a 19th-century narrative historian and modern social analyst. Elements of thisbook seem very old-fashioned and formal - in a good way. Yet the author eschews the detached third person preferred by stuffy professionals, favouring instead a more intimate "you" that brings the reader into the dark alleys of industrial towns to sniff the urine, vomit and suppurating sores of industrial England. Those perfect
sentences are scattered throughout.