As both an art form and a label for a period, realism is a challenging concept in LUS. What feels like reality is a personal thing. In representing Victorian cities, the accumulation of details or sensed qualities such as of darkness and light created a reality effect but equally drew on pre-existing genres. The experience of urban arrival, spatialised sensations such as verticality and a gendered perception of fellow city users also characterize urban textual depictions we call realist. Verisimilitude, urban spectating and place categories like the resort and ‘slum’ have all attracted LUS researchers investigating the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, labelled the era of realism in the literatures of Western European languages. Reading a brief 1860s young adult religious novel of London by Hesba Stretton challenges a stereotyping view of literary urban realism as naïve or straightforward, suggesting that the boundary between this and avant-garde twentieth century forms is even more porous and treacherous than earlier supposed.