There is a difference between reading a historical novel and reading a book that was written by a contemporary author. There is a different feel, a different set of values. This is definitely the case for Alton Locke. When I started to read I thought it would be quaint and old-fashioned. I was in for a shock. Kingsley has written this book in defiant mood and it is as shocking today as it was when it was published – about 170 years ago.
Victorian London was a dirty, terrible place and there is a feeling and a sense that I have never experienced before. Add in the fact that the novel was a relatively new experiment and Kingsley occasionally adds in his opinion to the story. The writing is fresh and exciting. It is more appealing to feel the author is there with you putting his slant on the story than the novels we get today that are mostly objective and the writer does his / her best to disappear into the background. B. S. Johnson comes close to this in some of his short stories when he stops the narrative to tell a joke.
Kingsley is angry. Furious about the way the working class are being treated and about the rigid class distinctions. Even more angry about the way they are treated by the church. This is a religious book but it is as critical of religion as it is religious.
I would encourage everyone, religious or not to find this book and give it a try. You will learn things and read things that will shock you and it is probably more engaging than any book I have read recently (over the last 170 years.)