The Diamond of Drury Lane

Written by Julia Golding
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Ella McNulty (aged 12)


London, 1780. The playwright and theatre manager Richard Sheridan rescues an abandoned child and brings her to the Theatre Royal. He names her Catherine Royal. Ten years later, Cat is part mascot, part general dogsbody. If anybody knows what’s going on, it’s Cat. She knows that Mr Sheridan is hiding a special diamond in the theatre; that the new prompt, Johnny Smith, is not all he seems (why does he always have inky fingers?); that the authorities are after ‘Captain Sparkler’, the notorious political cartoonist; that Syd Fletcher, leader of the Butcher’s boys gang is to be trusted; and that Billy ‘Boil’ Shepherd, the leader of a rival gang is a dangerous bully.

Then she meets Pedro Hawkins, a black boy, who is a virtuoso violinist. It is through Pedro that Cat is taken up by Lord Francis and Lady Elizabeth, children of the Duke of Avon. Francis, who has led a sheltered life, is determined to see an East End boxing match and persuades Cat and Pedro to take him – and who should be there but Billy ‘Boil’. Francis is, so he thinks, in disguise, but the moment he opens his mouth, Billy suspects that he’s not what he’s pretending to be.

Then Cat discovers Johnny Smith’s secret and events threaten to spiral out of control. There are dangers in store for Cat and her friends – dangers which could all too easily lead to the gallows …

I enjoyed this. I loved the realistically chaotic theatre world, complete with audience riots and hazardous stage effects. 18th-century London was a dangerous place with filthy back streets where crime was rife and lawless gangs roamed unchecked. Julia Golding takes us into an authentically smelly and dangerous world and my guess is that confident readers of 10+ will love it. A terrific read.

– Elizabeth Hawksley


The Diamond of Drury Lane was at first hard to get into because the action started off quite slowly, but as the story continued I got immersed in it, and it was very interesting and a good read. The plot has lots of twists and the story is well narrated by the main character, Cat Royal. I liked the descriptions of the theatre and of life the 1790s. I was first drawn to the book because of the interesting front cover and the style in which it’s presented, which is as a theatre programme. I think this book is well-worth reading and, though it might take time to get into, in the end it is very good. I think this book would be good for children between the ages of 9 and 13 and both boys and girls would enjoy it.

– Ella McNulty (aged 12)