The People of the Abyss

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Author: Jack London
Published: 1903
Language: English
Wordcount: 61,875 / 179 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 75.3
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 3,243 4490

Life in the East End of London in 1902.

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rail-clearers, living sign-posts to all the world, and bestowers of first aid to bewildered travellers--unhesitatingly and instantly, with ease and celerity, could you send me to Darkest Africa or Innermost Thibet, but to the East End of London, barely a stone's throw distant from Ludgate Circus, you know not the way!

"You can't do it, you know," said the human emporium of routes and fares at Cook's Cheapside branch. "It is so--hem--so unusual."

"Consult the police," he concluded authoritatively, when I had persisted. "We are not accustomed to taking travellers to the East End; we receive no call to take them there, and we know nothing whatsoever about the place at all."

"Never mind that," I interposed, to save myself from being swept out of the office by his flood of negations. "Here's something you can do for me. I wish you to understand in advance what I intend doing, so that in case of trouble you may be able to identify me."

"Ah, I see! should you be murdered, we would be in p


Average Rating of 3 from 4 reviews: ***
Mark Goodwin

What an amazing book. The way the author describes the horrid conditions of East London (around 1900) will make you really grateful for your present situation in life (no matter what it might be). It is amazing and very difficult to believe that so many (as in thousands upon thousands) of people lived in such desperate and despicable conditions yet this was the case. Jack London voluntarily put himself in this situation to learn what life was like for the wretched. Luckily for him, he had a refuge when things got too tough (and they often did) but none of the others he came into contact with, had such an escape.

The author does an excellent job of not only showing the misery of the impoverished but also shows how lacking in compassion and support was the rest of London's society. Perhaps those who were more elevated on the social ladder were unaware of those below but that seems unlikely given the 450,000 or so who lived in such conditions.

This book speaks volumes of how little we have progressed as a species. I believe that this is one of the best books that I have ever read.


Wow. After reading the last review I had to take a look at this since I love Jack London's stuff. Well it may or maynot have been a "socialist screed" but it WAS kinda ham-fisted, beating you over the head with it chapter after chapter after chapter. I still like London but am going to stick with his fiction.


Interesting because it paints a graphic portrait of the deplorable living conditions among London's poor, this work by Jack London is still a pompous pain in the arse in almost every other way. It's mostly a socialist screed that uses purple prose to identify problems and then -- like socialist screeds everywhere -- uses class envy and warfare to denigrate people who have it good in life. Then, it doesn't offer any solutions. Garbage, start to finish, and necessary to read only for London completists or like-minded socialist idiots.

Sardo Weems

London's account of the time he spent acting as a poor man in the slums of the East End of London. The first-hand account is absorbing, but the statistics and outraged denouncement at the end drag a bit.

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