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When he is eight years old Arthur Golding watches his gifted but dissolute father die in poverty and squalor. Aided by a series of brilliantly-drawn characters, Arthur escapes slum life, gains an education, falls in love, and looks set to launch his career in London as an artist. But when he meets a beautiful young prostitute he embarks on a liaison that plunges him into a dark world of passion, threatening to destroy everything he has worked for and holds dear.In this powerful and largely autobiographical first novel George Gissing establishes the hallmarks of his life-long literary obsession with class, money and sex. Against the turbulent background of London in the late nineteenth century, Gissing explores the daunting challenges that face men of education, intelligence and talent, who strive to escape from the lower working class into which they are born.