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Title: London: The Biography
Author: Peter Ackroyd
Publisher: Published 2003 by Anchor Books (first published 2000)
ISBN: 9780385497718
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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London: The Biography is the pinnacle of Peter Ackroyd’s brilliant obsession with the eponymous city. In this unusual and engaging work, Ackroyd brings the reader through time into the city whose institutions and idiosyncrasies have permeated much of his works of fiction and nonfiction. Peter Ackroyd sees London as a living, breathing organism, with its own laws of growth London: The Biography is the pinnacle of Peter Ackroyd’s brilliant obsession with the eponymous city. In this unusual and engaging work, Ackroyd brings the reader through time into the city whose institutions and idiosyncrasies have permeated much of his works of fiction and nonfiction. Peter Ackroyd sees London as a living, breathing organism, with its own laws of growth and change. Reveling in the city’s riches as well as its raucousness, the author traces thematically its growth from the time of the Druids to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Anecdotal, insightful, and wonderfully entertaining, London is animated by Ackroyd’s concern for the close relationship between the present and the past, as well as by what he describes as the peculiar “echoic” quality of London, whereby its texture and history actively affect the lives and personalities of its citizens. London confirms Ackroyd’s status as what one critic has called “our age’s greatest London imagination.”

30 review for London: The Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Dear Mr. Ackroyd, Will you marry me? I know you're gay, and I'm a woman. I understand that such details present wrinkles in the grand scheme, but I'm sure we can arrange bits on the side and whatever. Truthfully, I don't think you are really good looking, but you sure write sexy. I wish I had a quarter of your intelligence. This love poem to London, for love poem it is, is wonderful. It's brillant! It's marvellous! I think I just want to marry you so I can live in London. Well, that and your accent. It Dear Mr. Ackroyd, Will you marry me? I know you're gay, and I'm a woman. I understand that such details present wrinkles in the grand scheme, but I'm sure we can arrange bits on the side and whatever. Truthfully, I don't think you are really good looking, but you sure write sexy. I wish I had a quarter of your intelligence. This love poem to London, for love poem it is, is wonderful. It's brillant! It's marvellous! I think I just want to marry you so I can live in London. Well, that and your accent. It was a brillant idea to tell the story of London not as a linear history, but as a thematic one. It made it more interesting and the reader learns more. It also stops the book from getting dull. Instead, here come the Tudors; it's here comes the murder (or the animals, or acting or the poor). Even the length of the chapters is just right. Sorry, didn't mean to sound like Goldilocks, though she might have been from London. I also really liked the fact that you had a whole section on birds. Thank you for a wonderful book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    London: The Biography is a junkshop of the heart, more or less: Peter Ackroyd's heart, or the heart of anyone else who has fallen in love with London's 2000 year history, its transformations, its theatricality, its poverty, its wit, its preposterousness, its influence on the English language. This is a book that's too densely packed with interesting data, arranged in short, thematic chapters, to be read from front to back, much as London is a city that's too large and infinite to be visited thor London: The Biography is a junkshop of the heart, more or less: Peter Ackroyd's heart, or the heart of anyone else who has fallen in love with London's 2000 year history, its transformations, its theatricality, its poverty, its wit, its preposterousness, its influence on the English language. This is a book that's too densely packed with interesting data, arranged in short, thematic chapters, to be read from front to back, much as London is a city that's too large and infinite to be visited thoroughly even during a long, hyperactive visit. Instead, I think most readers will end up doing what I did--skipping around to find items of interest: the history of the stage in London, the experiences of the Londoners during the Blitz, the effects of Henry VIII's decision to break with the Roman Catholic Church, the persistence of Chaucerian character-types. My experiences in London over 4 decades correspond in some measure to Ackroyd's insistence on the Dickensian quality of the place...the fogs, low ceilings, narrow alleyways...but his book does drop the ball in conveying the influence of parks and gardens on the London experience and fails to convey the full impact of London's cosmopolitanism--its infinity of peoples, costumes, and cuisines, in the post-Imperial, post-Colonial, post-modern era. I also wish there were a more extended meditation in it somewhere on literary London (writers are quoted all the time, but their London lives aren't stitched together in what you might call a cultural appraisal of the life of letters in London). That said, Ackroyd has no qualms about emphasizing London's dingy quality, its patched-together architecture, and its continuous (for millennia) construction and deconstruction. This is his overriding theme: here's a city with a strong, peculiar personalty with which no one can do anything; it must be accepted as it is for what it is; tear it down and it will twist and torture your plans to build it anew; bomb it and it will survive underground; make it a "fashionable" destination, and it will satirize its own fashionableness. As a "book," this text strikes me as something of a marketing enterprise: here's the biggest, most comprehensive, last word on London, so you have to have it. It probably would have been more effective had it been edited down a bit. But that's exactly what Akroyd says people have tried to do to London, and in the end, it overflows all measure and restraint

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kotinka

    Nobody can doubt the incredible amount of research the author collated to put this mammoth of a book together. His subject matter is fascinating and rewarding. However, Ackroyd's writing style is very particular and surely a matter of taste - unfortunately this reviewer finds it annoyingly loose, try-hard artistic and peppered with sweeping generalisations and over romanticisation. Small sections of the book stand out for their accuracy and fluency and undeniably, the book is crammed with reams Nobody can doubt the incredible amount of research the author collated to put this mammoth of a book together. His subject matter is fascinating and rewarding. However, Ackroyd's writing style is very particular and surely a matter of taste - unfortunately this reviewer finds it annoyingly loose, try-hard artistic and peppered with sweeping generalisations and over romanticisation. Small sections of the book stand out for their accuracy and fluency and undeniably, the book is crammed with reams of fascinating facts and mini-histories. Nevertheless, great subject material was for the most part dragged down by an over-worked writing style to a level that made reading this book a real slog - one that was self-imposed due to the fear that this city's most amazing history might not be covered in such depth for quite some time again.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Davide

    [2014] Ackroyd è un londinese che ha scritto, letto e visto molto su Londra; ed è uno scrittore londinese che ha scritto molto sugli scrittori londinesi (compresi libri su Dickens e sui fratelli Lamb): non stupisce quindi trovare qui stipato un gran numero di notizie, curiosità, citazioni, ricordi, immagini, riflessioni su Londra. Uno degli informatori principali è il diarista del Seicento Samuel Pepys, poi naturalmente Defoe, Fielding, Samuel Johnson, Boswell, Dickens, Hogarth, De Quincey, Charl [2014] Ackroyd è un londinese che ha scritto, letto e visto molto su Londra; ed è uno scrittore londinese che ha scritto molto sugli scrittori londinesi (compresi libri su Dickens e sui fratelli Lamb): non stupisce quindi trovare qui stipato un gran numero di notizie, curiosità, citazioni, ricordi, immagini, riflessioni su Londra. Uno degli informatori principali è il diarista del Seicento Samuel Pepys, poi naturalmente Defoe, Fielding, Samuel Johnson, Boswell, Dickens, Hogarth, De Quincey, Charles Lamb (molto meno l’altro grande saggista di inizio Ottocento, William Hazlitt), George Gissing, G. K. Chesterton, George Orwell, ecc. ecc. Viene voglia poi di esplorare altri, meno noti, apporti basilari del libro: da John Stow (per il Cinquecento) e John Evelyn (un altro importante diario del Seicento) a Charles Booth (autore del gigantesco Life and Labour of the People of London, del 1903, in sette volumi) e Charles Knight («un altro grande storico di Londra»), a Henry Mayhew, autore di una inchiesta sui poveri di Londra, pubblicata sul «Morning Chronicle», poi in volume: London Labour and the London Poor, che pare sia stata tra i riferimenti importanti di Dickens... E naturalmente non mancano i riferimenti ai grandi architetti che hanno segnato l’immagine della città (Christopher Wren, Robert Adam, Nicholas Hawksmoor, George Dance, William Chambers, John Nash, Daniel Asher Alexander…) e nemmeno la voce degli osservatori stranieri, spesso anonima (ma non restano anonimi Heine e Taine, ad esempio). Tanta roba, quindi; e d'altra parte sono quasi 700 pagine! Ma poi non è che Ackroyd ne tragga tantissimo sugo. Ad esempio, l’idea del sostanziale “paganesimo” di Londra torna più volte, ma rimane abbastanza abbozzata. All’inizio (dalla preistoria al Medioevo) e alla fine (dai bombardamenti nazisti alla ricostruzione) l'organizzazione del materiale è un po' più cronologica, per il resto si va sostanzialmente per temi, in capitoli relativamente brevi. Un buon riassunto del punto di vista di Ackroyd sul carattere della città si può estrarre dal discorso sui trasporti nella Londra vittoriana: «I cocchieri londinesi sintetizzano lo spirito della città – veloce, irrequieto, audace, con una propensione all’ubriachezza e alla violenza.» La Londra di Ackroyd è «una città basata su lavoro e impresa, su potere e commercio» (più City che Westminster, insomma… e basti dire che, se non sbaglio, non cita nemmeno una volta Downing Street: il senso della città è principalmente dettato dall’impulso anarco-finanziario, come se non fosse “anche” una capitale politica), ma allo stesso tempo è segnata da un «umore radicale e ugualitario» che regolarmente riemerge in questa veloce e violenta città votata completamente al guadagno, al denaro, al commercio, alla finanza. La forza coesiva principale del volume (anche un po’ fastidiosa quando si sente ripetuta e a volte forzata) è la tensione a rintracciare linee di continuità: evidenti, larvati o misteriosi collegamenti nei secoli, che fanno di Londra «una città di echi e di ombre» e spesso quasi un’entità con volontà propria, che impone ai suoi abitanti. E quindi tenace continuità di carattere o di specializzazione nelle diverse parti della città, tendenza dei londinesi a rimanere tutta la vita nella stessa zona: ogni capitoletto deve avere il suo inizio accattivante e la sua frasetta finale riassuntiva, anche quando non è così significativo che nello stesso luogo siano successe cose solo vagamente simili a distanza di cinque o sei secoli. Altra cosa un po’ fastidiosa è che spesso presenta come “tipicamente londinese” situazioni o caratteristiche che si ritrovano benissimo altrove. Non sempre poi il montaggio è così interessante da spingere con forza a proseguire la lettura: difficile tenere l’attenzione per settecento pagine senza essere mai una “storia”. p. s. Alcuni limiti vengono dall’edizione italiana: le due cartine (intorno al 1800 e Modern London) sono limitate all’area più centrale e non facilmente leggibili, soprattutto perché tra le due pagine la rilegatura si mangia un pezzo, e la traduzione a volte non è chiarissima; però la copertina con The Heart of the Empire di Niels Moller Lund è adeguatamente suggestiva e il librone sta bene insieme senza sfaldarsi.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David Manns

    What a book. Ackroyd has created the ultimate portrait of London as a living, breathing entity, not just a collection of old buildings and monuments. Rather than a dry chronological trawl through the history of our nation's capital, instead Ackroyd chooses themes and explores them through time and space, focussing on specific areas or ideas. Thus he paints a picture of an ever evolving city that defies all attempts to change or control it. London is its own master. Ackroyd ranges back and forth t What a book. Ackroyd has created the ultimate portrait of London as a living, breathing entity, not just a collection of old buildings and monuments. Rather than a dry chronological trawl through the history of our nation's capital, instead Ackroyd chooses themes and explores them through time and space, focussing on specific areas or ideas. Thus he paints a picture of an ever evolving city that defies all attempts to change or control it. London is its own master. Ackroyd ranges back and forth through time in pursuit of his themes and as a consequence throws up facts that are never less than interesting, frequently fascinating. All the while he slowly moves us through London's development through the centuries, and my only quibble would be that he skips through the 20th century rather too quickly. But considering the book is 800 pages long and he had a heart attack after finishing it, I'll forgive him that. If you are looking for a dry history book, look elsewhere. If you are in search of a book about London that is full of ideas and facts backed up by a wealth of research then London: The Biography is for you. Not to everyone's taste, but I found it a great read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    F.G. Cottam

    London has always possessed the presence of a character (and a major character at that), in the quite brilliant novels Ackroyd has chosen to set there. His love of and fascination for the city has always been apparent. Here he demonstrates his scholarly expertise on a subject that clearly beguiles him and with what incredibly enjoyable result. The best praise I can offer this book is that it is worthy of its subject. It is deep, mystical, multi-layered and endlessly fascinating. I lived in Londo London has always possessed the presence of a character (and a major character at that), in the quite brilliant novels Ackroyd has chosen to set there. His love of and fascination for the city has always been apparent. Here he demonstrates his scholarly expertise on a subject that clearly beguiles him and with what incredibly enjoyable result. The best praise I can offer this book is that it is worthy of its subject. It is deep, mystical, multi-layered and endlessly fascinating. I lived in London for 20 years from the age of 21 and trying to describe it as it was in 1937, in my novel The House of Lost Souls, was probably the most enjoyable fictive challenge I've taken on. This is not fiction - though it reads so compulsively it could be - but Ackroyd is the master, the London writer everyone should look up to. This book is a perfect mix of passion and erudition. I've just read it for the second time and look forward to reading it again. I can't recommend it strongly enough.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    This book is a massive undertaking, both for the author and the reader, and the amount of extraordinary, fascinating and brilliant detail in here is mind-boggling. It pulls from an awe-inspiring number of primary sources to provide the most delectable quotes on everything from pubs to fashion to murders to popular food. In fact, I can't think of a subject that isn't in here, and it's all woven together in a form that is almost like fiction. It muses, ponders, revels in minutiae. This is the firs This book is a massive undertaking, both for the author and the reader, and the amount of extraordinary, fascinating and brilliant detail in here is mind-boggling. It pulls from an awe-inspiring number of primary sources to provide the most delectable quotes on everything from pubs to fashion to murders to popular food. In fact, I can't think of a subject that isn't in here, and it's all woven together in a form that is almost like fiction. It muses, ponders, revels in minutiae. This is the first book I started reading after my father died about a year and a half ago, I hadn't been able to read anything at all for a month or two and this was perfect for getting back into it, reading a couple of chapters at a time, setting down, coming back to. I loved loved loved so much of it, both the tidbits of history, but also the ways in which Ackroyd combined them, sometimes by theme or period or area. It's changed how I walked around London streets, how I see the Thames every time I cross it, the ways I contrast old and new and am always seeking out the echoes of past times. I was a bit that way before, I confess, but now I have a much better feeling for what might be there and understanding of what I find. It's hard to judge a work of this size and scope with so much that is amazing in it. But as I read I became increasingly critical of the celebration of commercialism. It all comes to a head in the final chapters which left me angry. A sort of mystical view of London had been steadily emerging, a sort of organic living creature of a city with its own requirements and demands of its inhabitants. I liked playing with ideas about the ways in which a city shapes its residents, but was disappointed to find Ackroyd's jubilation at the financial centres surviving the blitz as proof that the living beating heart of London might well be commerce and finance. There is a celebration of Thatcher's big bang of 1986 loosing regulations on bangs -- that would ultimately lead to our current economic crisis. And he writes If the city had a voice it might be saying: There will always be those who fail or who are unfortunate, just as there will always be those who cannot cope with the world as presently constituted, but I can encompass them all. ...Lincoln's Inn Fields was occupied once more by the homeless, after an interval of 150 years, while areas like Waterloo Bridge and the Embankment became the setting for what were known as 'cardboard cities'. ... Despite civic and government initiatives, they are still there. They are now part of the recognisable population; they are Londoners, joining the endless parade. Or perhaps, by sitting upon the sidelines, they remind everyone else that it is a parade. How infuriating! As though the homeless and the masses of poor are a natural phenomenon like weather, and not caused by deindustrialisation, the roll back of the welfare state and Thatcher's own policies channeling wealth away from them towards the already wealthy. That Lincoln's Inn field should have been free of the homeless for 150 years was an accomplishment of society hard fought and bitterly won. Their return is an indictment of our current direction, not an ornament to London's wealth, or a gaze that seeks to remind the well-to-do of how wonderful they are. Had I only stopped reading with the Blitz I would have unqualifiedly loved this book, as it is I am torn between giving it a five and giving it a one. I look back and wonder how much of this view seeped into the history. I am sure it did in celebrating trade, muting struggle and resistance. But in terms of how theatre changed over time, the love of jellied eels and pies, the roles of gravediggers, the building of churches, the vast panoply of literary views and all such topics,this is quite wonderful.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Arabella

    As a native Londoner, I found parts of this book very interesting. For example, I knew there had been other rivers in London such as the long-lost Fleet river, what I hadn't realized is that they are all still there, buried under the city. I also didn't know much of anything about London pre-Romans. Apart from being really, really long, there were a few things I didn't like about this book. One was the way Ackroyd described things as being unique to London, for example quoting all the references As a native Londoner, I found parts of this book very interesting. For example, I knew there had been other rivers in London such as the long-lost Fleet river, what I hadn't realized is that they are all still there, buried under the city. I also didn't know much of anything about London pre-Romans. Apart from being really, really long, there were a few things I didn't like about this book. One was the way Ackroyd described things as being unique to London, for example quoting all the references to London as a theater, or a stage. I expect any city has been described in this way at some point. It's also full of randomly linked miscellany with which Ackroyd tries to make a point, but often seems like stretching just a little too hard. Also, while I see the point in not writing the book chronologically, at times it made it hard to understand what period of time was being referred to.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pete daPixie

    Could very well be THE biography of 'London', Peter Ackroyd's 2000 publication is a monumental eight hundred page delight. The scope and coverage is breathtaking, from the last ice age to the domain of wild animals, to the Roman and Saxon foundations to it's present day sprawl. The capital city with all the trials,tribulations,fog and flame from Aeneas to Ziegler. Ackroyd has produced a masterpiece. It is clearly a life times work, and not just a historical one. The reader is taken by the hand an Could very well be THE biography of 'London', Peter Ackroyd's 2000 publication is a monumental eight hundred page delight. The scope and coverage is breathtaking, from the last ice age to the domain of wild animals, to the Roman and Saxon foundations to it's present day sprawl. The capital city with all the trials,tribulations,fog and flame from Aeneas to Ziegler. Ackroyd has produced a masterpiece. It is clearly a life times work, and not just a historical one. The reader is taken by the hand and led through the streets, alleyways, squares, fairs, churches, palaces, ale houses and hovels. Through time travel and through the eyes of a myriad of characters, writers, artists, princes and paupers, we can imagine the sights, sounds, smells and spirits through the centuries. A huge feast of a book that is easily digested in concise and so very well written portions.

  10. 4 out of 5

    sage

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Atrociously bad. It could be turned into a drinking game -- drink any time Ackroyd uses fallacious logic or uses a completely unrelated and non-universal example to "prove" an absurd point. Of course, then you'd have alcohol poisoning by the end of the first chapter. If his thesis were that London, as a city, has a particular culture unlike other cities in Britain, then this book might be an interesting amble through different elements of that culture. However, his thesis is that the city itself, Atrociously bad. It could be turned into a drinking game -- drink any time Ackroyd uses fallacious logic or uses a completely unrelated and non-universal example to "prove" an absurd point. Of course, then you'd have alcohol poisoning by the end of the first chapter. If his thesis were that London, as a city, has a particular culture unlike other cities in Britain, then this book might be an interesting amble through different elements of that culture. However, his thesis is that the city itself, in its pavement, sewer systems, buildings, etc., literally speak to the residents and dictate their ways of life. Yes, that is exactly as crazycakes as it sounds. Up to including his claim that the actual tarmac of the street told the poor, nonwhite protestors to riot against their white oppressors. Also, there's the constant impossible superlativing, making ridiculous claims that London was the first city ever to do ______ in all of history. As if Rome and other ancient metropolises had never been. Calling it shoddy scholarship is generous. This book IS kind of interesting as an adjunct to Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series, if you pretend London is actually fiction. I only made myself finish the book because the anecdotes he paraphrases are fascinating. Sadly, there are no footnotes or endnotes, and he doesn't list his sources for particular stories, so this book is pretty useless as a diving off point into something better. So...yay badly quoted anecdotes?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    Whither art thou driven, ghostly stranger, by the lamentations that echo in the dales of the lifeless and broken hills from whence thou wert bound? Phantom of breath, buckler of the passed and passing days, into what deep chasm of the forgotten mind of God hast thou found thyself, mewling for the grace that has evaded thy dogged and persistent steps? Look inward, man-child—a succession of stygian wombs hast thou haunted, passing now into life and anon into death. The cry of babes and the rattle Whither art thou driven, ghostly stranger, by the lamentations that echo in the dales of the lifeless and broken hills from whence thou wert bound? Phantom of breath, buckler of the passed and passing days, into what deep chasm of the forgotten mind of God hast thou found thyself, mewling for the grace that has evaded thy dogged and persistent steps? Look inward, man-child—a succession of stygian wombs hast thou haunted, passing now into life and anon into death. The cry of babes and the rattle of carrion are the chorus that greet thee upon thy fresh emergence—sweet and rancid kisses from which thou hast ever shrunk away, engirt with the terror that upholds the heavens.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Fox

    This book was truly extraordinary. I was looking for an in-depth history of London, and I certainly found it between this book's covers. Peter Ackroyd truly did write a biography of London, from its sprawling streets to its strange citizens. His writing is fluid, and fascinating to read; his use of primary sources is utterly astounding, and somewhat maddening, as the cockney can be a bit hard on the eyes. Peter Ackroyd's book is told in a very loose chronology. While the 'story' begins with prehis This book was truly extraordinary. I was looking for an in-depth history of London, and I certainly found it between this book's covers. Peter Ackroyd truly did write a biography of London, from its sprawling streets to its strange citizens. His writing is fluid, and fascinating to read; his use of primary sources is utterly astounding, and somewhat maddening, as the cockney can be a bit hard on the eyes. Peter Ackroyd's book is told in a very loose chronology. While the 'story' begins with prehistory, and ends in the 80s, not much in this book is linear. He makes London timeless, and turns the city into the icon that it is today. The emphasis of the text is upon how little things have changed, even while London is destroyed and rebuilt cyclically. The essence of the city can be found in the hospitals raised upon the sites of druidic wells, the very wells that the Victorians later claimed had healing capabilities. The triumph of this text is not in the traditional dates and names of rulers, battles, and the like... rather, the triumph is in the fact that it focuses upon the citizens of the empire. Reading this book, you will learn about the conditions of the jails, what Londoner's favorite pasttimes were, how the role of women changed, and how London assimilates the immigrants. You'll read about how little Cockney has changed from the 1500s, and how London's taste for the theatrical existed before Shakespeare came on the scene. After reading this book, I feel that I have learned more about London than I have from the World History courses I've taken. Peter Ackroyd has an eye for what's importance, and brings this city of commerce, violence, and theater to life in a way that no one else has. Smashing book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark Love

    You may be forgiven for thinking that my recent paucity of reviews was a due to lack of reading brought about by the birth of our son. Not so. I have been labouring through this beast of a book for the past couple of months, and am now relieved to be able to put it back on the shelf. Peter Ackroyd's biography of London is impressive in every sense - the length, the breadth, the details and the passionate and scholarly work that went into it, and it has been celebrated by reviewers and middle-clas You may be forgiven for thinking that my recent paucity of reviews was a due to lack of reading brought about by the birth of our son. Not so. I have been labouring through this beast of a book for the past couple of months, and am now relieved to be able to put it back on the shelf. Peter Ackroyd's biography of London is impressive in every sense - the length, the breadth, the details and the passionate and scholarly work that went into it, and it has been celebrated by reviewers and middle-class Londoners everywhere, but I doubt many of them have read it all. As much as I liked the subject matter (well, it is my home) and enjoyed many of the wonderfully varied chapters on all aspects of the city's history (social, commercial, architectural, political, natural) Ackroyd's narrative itself was densely earnest, puffy, and self-important. Take this quote for example: "The nature of time in London is mysterious. It seems not to be running in one direction, but to fall backwards and to retire; it does not so much resemble a stream or river as a lava flow from some unknown source of fire. Sometimes it moves steadily forward, before springing or leaping out; sometimes it slows down and, on occasions, it drifts and begins to stop altogether." So, even time in London is unique?! London is a great city, and this is a great book, packed with some amazing details and insights into life through the ages, but this is the kind of pompous nonsense that makes the book twice as long as it needs to be, and understandably makes non-Londoners throw their hands in the air. Read it, or else just put it on the shelf to impress guests.

  14. 5 out of 5

    فهد الفهد

    London: The Biography قرأت هذا الكتاب العملاق قبل رحلتي الأخيرة والتي زرت فيها لندن وأدنبرة، كتاب مفصل يناسب الباحثين أكثر من القارئ العادي، جاف في تناوله لموضوع حي مثل تاريخ لندن، استسلمت بعد ما قرأت ربع الكتاب.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    I initially gave this four stars, recognising the huge amount of research that Ackroyd has pulled together - anything you want to know about scandals, sewers, executions or thievery in London is here in an exuberant tumble. But ultimately the tumble led to my three star rating - the lack of order in the presentation jars for me and I gave up. It's a book for dipping rather than straight through reading. The Manchester Guardian review on this link summarises several other reviews that balance amaz I initially gave this four stars, recognising the huge amount of research that Ackroyd has pulled together - anything you want to know about scandals, sewers, executions or thievery in London is here in an exuberant tumble. But ultimately the tumble led to my three star rating - the lack of order in the presentation jars for me and I gave up. It's a book for dipping rather than straight through reading. The Manchester Guardian review on this link summarises several other reviews that balance amazment at the scope and abundance of Ackroyd's work against its internal chaos: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2000/... I've marked it both as history and fiction, because you never really know with Ackroyd - the boundaries between the two are very thin. Certainly he has used lots of snippets of information he has come across in researching his previous books

  16. 5 out of 5

    Perry Whitford

    - in his brief foreword, Ackroyd describes his monumental labour as that of 'one stumbling Londoner, who wishes to lead others in the directions which I have pursued over a lifetime,' inviting the reader to 'wander and wonder.' - who but Ackroyd would not just include but conclude a history of London with a chapter on Cockney visionaries? When he tells you about Edward the Confessor building Westminster Abbey after a vision, and how 'a thousand years later, in this place, William Blake was grante - in his brief foreword, Ackroyd describes his monumental labour as that of 'one stumbling Londoner, who wishes to lead others in the directions which I have pursued over a lifetime,' inviting the reader to 'wander and wonder.' - who but Ackroyd would not just include but conclude a history of London with a chapter on Cockney visionaries? When he tells you about Edward the Confessor building Westminster Abbey after a vision, and how 'a thousand years later, in this place, William Blake was granted a vision of monk's chanting and proceeding down the central isle' you know that he believes in veracity of those visions. - The abiding theme of Ackroyd's fiction is of how the past both underlays and influences the present, how the previous events of a particular place inform current events in uncanny ways. Where better to give ultimate expression to that theme than the history of London, 'a palimpsest of different realities and lingering truths'? And what better representative of this continuity of time and place than the streets of London? Covent Garden has always been a market, St Giles-in-the-Field has always been home to the poor and the outcast, Clerkenwell Green has always been connected with radicalism. 'Is it too much to suggest that there are certain types of activity, or patterns of inheritance, arising from the streets and alleys themselves?' - not that he ignores the more grounded, commercial side of the City. On the southern side of London Bridge are two griffons, guardians of gold mines and buried treasure in classical mythology. 'The presiding deity of this place has always been money.' - while Besant took a largely broad brush approach to his portraits of the City down the centuries, Ackroyd revels in a feast of individual detail. Criminals, vagrants, barmen: the City has countless examples of celebrity from all walks of life, such as Jack Sheppard, who escaped from Newgate Prison no less than six times, George, the drawer at the Mitre who earned a call-out in both Jonson's <>Every Man Out of His Humour<> and Dekker and Webster's <>Westwood Ho!<> - the 'essential theatricality' of London - variations on the phrase 'it was as though London itself' are used again and again to explain every phenomena

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maksym Karpovets

    зізнаюсь, що не зумів прочитати чималу книгу класика стилізованої історичної прози Пітера Акройда, можливо, навіть одного із улюблених сучасних авторів на рівні із Джуліаном Барнсом, Єном Маклюеном і Салманом Рушді. не зумів не через те, що не дуже цікаво, а через безпросвітну щільність письма, часто енциклопедичного і безпощадно точного. зрозуміло, що мені найбільш сподобались частини, де автор жонглює метафорами ("море людського натовпу"), дивує стилістичними вузлами (до речі, переклад дуже ча зізнаюсь, що не зумів прочитати чималу книгу класика стилізованої історичної прози Пітера Акройда, можливо, навіть одного із улюблених сучасних авторів на рівні із Джуліаном Барнсом, Єном Маклюеном і Салманом Рушді. не зумів не через те, що не дуже цікаво, а через безпросвітну щільність письма, часто енциклопедичного і безпощадно точного. зрозуміло, що мені найбільш сподобались частини, де автор жонглює метафорами ("море людського натовпу"), дивує стилістичними вузлами (до речі, переклад дуже часто відходить від оригіналу у бік якоїсь дивної поетики) та бездоганним відчуттям свого міста, яке і є основним героєм, основним тлом, практично основою всього тексту від початку до кінця. тому готуйтесь, що цей всесвіт поглине вас у темні діккенсівські квартали, брудні і смердючі; тьмяні порти і паби; вікторіанські балкони і прихистки. мені сподобалось, що у Акройда все йде в хід для ілюстрації світу Лондона: записки, тревелінґи, випадкові документи, листи, романи, поезія, графіка, мапи. ось вам справді міждисциплінарний підхід без пафосної претензії ним бути попри все! відтак, інтертекст Лондона дає можливість прочитувати його як завгодно, ламаючи і заново створюючи його хронотоп. мені такий спосіб найбільше сподобався, хоча відчуття якоїсь інтелектуальної втоми не покидало. добре це чи погано - вже немає значення.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    There's a tremendous amount of research here, and I particularly appreciated Ackroyd's focus on original sources to describe the spirit of London through the ages. I wish it had been organized chronologically, however, instead of thematically, and the discussion never seemed to get much beyond the few hundred years between the late Renaissance and the mid-19th century. I also got a little tired of Ackroyd trotting out London as a metaphor (London is a key, is a prison, is a garden, is a stage, i There's a tremendous amount of research here, and I particularly appreciated Ackroyd's focus on original sources to describe the spirit of London through the ages. I wish it had been organized chronologically, however, instead of thematically, and the discussion never seemed to get much beyond the few hundred years between the late Renaissance and the mid-19th century. I also got a little tired of Ackroyd trotting out London as a metaphor (London is a key, is a prison, is a garden, is a stage, is a maze, etc., etc.); surely the city has some kind of limit as a rhetorical device. While the book did make me excited to live there this summer, it was a little less illuminating than I had hoped it would be.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    This is such an exhaustive survey of London, I cannot imagine how long it took Ackroyd to research and write. This touches on absolutely anything and everything you could want to know about the city. Equal parts entertaining and educational, it took me quite a while to read simply because of the amount of information packed into it. Covering prehistory up to the millennial year, it's definitely recommended for any London-phile. A world of worlds, no other city on Earth has ever existed quite lik This is such an exhaustive survey of London, I cannot imagine how long it took Ackroyd to research and write. This touches on absolutely anything and everything you could want to know about the city. Equal parts entertaining and educational, it took me quite a while to read simply because of the amount of information packed into it. Covering prehistory up to the millennial year, it's definitely recommended for any London-phile. A world of worlds, no other city on Earth has ever existed quite like it. (It's even added a firmer foundation for Doctor Who London-based journeys!)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    The book that introduced me to Peter Ackroyd as an author. I have to admit that the book takes quite a while to get through, especially if you do not have the time to dedicate to reading just the one book. I really enjoy how thorough he is going from age to age on how London developed. I do recommend reading the book, but a number of pages can be daunting. I had it for a year before I felt I was up to tackling it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    This was okay. I love reading about London, quirky interesting facts about places that I know. This had plenty, but also had a LOT of other information about places, people, things...just about everything. The title says it all...'concise'! I found myself flicking through to find bits that I found interesting, but there was still plenty of bits to keep me going!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pietro

    London is a bad habit one hates to lose. Monumentale biografia londinese, non sempre trascinante a causa della tediosissima divisione per aree tematiche. Inevitabili difetti a parte, si tratta di un testo essenziale e assai completo per penetrare la storia, le abitudini, i segreti, le idiosincrasie di una città - e dei suoi abitanti - che non smetterà mai di incantare.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    Dark and juicy biography of the city. Ackroyd's highly personal and imaginative account is not straightforward -- but then neither is London. London is a complex stew that evokes the city not just as a historical entity but as almost an animate thing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Lost interest- too busy living here! Another time when I am feeling nostalgic, probably.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    When I taught college prep writing to my senior classes, oftentimes the students would choose a topic that was just - well - huge! ‘the Renaissance’ or ‘Chaucer’ or ‘The Spanish Armada’ or ‘Hamlet’. I would say “well, clearly an interesting choice, but you need to narrow it down.” So, let’s say a student picked the play, Hamlet. Me: pick one character. Student: okay, Hamlet Me: what intrigues you about THAT character? Student: his struggles Me: good, what about them? Student: well, he has many people When I taught college prep writing to my senior classes, oftentimes the students would choose a topic that was just - well - huge! ‘the Renaissance’ or ‘Chaucer’ or ‘The Spanish Armada’ or ‘Hamlet’. I would say “well, clearly an interesting choice, but you need to narrow it down.” So, let’s say a student picked the play, Hamlet. Me: pick one character. Student: okay, Hamlet Me: what intrigues you about THAT character? Student: his struggles Me: good, what about them? Student: well, he has many people in his life and situations that he can’t seem to understand or control - which makes him behave sometimes in strange ways. Me: do you take Psychology? Student: yes (I knew this answer as most of the seniors at my school took AP Psych) Me: does Hamlet exhibit any behaviors that you’ve studied. Then I literally see a lightbulb (said like Gru in Despicable Me) when the student first sees Hamlet as a young man struggling with manic depression & bipolar symptoms. Ta-da! If I were still teaching writing, I would tell my students to choose and read ONE chapter from Ackroyd’s 79 chapters in “London The Biography”. Each chapter is a PERFECT research paper focused on ONE idea/facet of this over 2,000 year old city. His research is thorough and meticulous. His blends the words and phrases of hundreds of other writers seamlessly with his own. In one paragraph, (every one of which had a focused and clear topic sentence) he would embroider snatches of other writers’ observations about the topic with his solid descriptive writing. (There are 12 pages at the end of the book entitled, “An Essay on Sources”.) Every chapter had a clear intro paragraph which was then supported till the closing paragraph that was both a summary of the topic and a clear reminder of that chapter’s point. This highly organized structure made this book a joy to read to me. I’ve visited London 2 times in my life and both times I felt ‘at home.’ I think London has an abstract -but very real - quality of infinite humanity. It has emerged from the darkest attacks: from the Roman invasions to expand its empire that began in 44 AD, the Anglo-Saxon tribes in 449 AD, the Viking invasions of the 9th Century....to a French Duke, William of Normandy who won the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and became the first King of the entire island, (Queen Elizabeth II can trace her family back to him!) through its Civil War and the German bombings directly on the city during WWII. Pubs, poverty, trade, the fog, the incessant noise and smell, jails, crime, architecture, churches, the plague, the theater, the constant archeological digs that never fail to surprise: literally 18th C items on top of 17th C items on top of 16th C stuff through to the remains of a Roman female from the turn of the first century. All this, and much much more, have solidified all the Londoners’ strong sense of identity and self as connected to the life of their city. I want to go back now, having this book in my heart and mind, to experience this wonderful old infinite city in a fresh & new way. “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Samuel Johnson

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Ball

    A masterpiece. The history of London, not chronologically, but thematically. The topics cover almost every sense: from the smell of the fog to the ever present noise, the markets, the vendors, the street theatre, the never ending rebuilding. Certain neighbourhoods are brought to light: from the radical history of Clerkenwell to the commercial history of the Thames, its docks and its tributaries. Chapters are dedicated to prisons, madhouses, coffee shops, and pubs; and of course the people, their A masterpiece. The history of London, not chronologically, but thematically. The topics cover almost every sense: from the smell of the fog to the ever present noise, the markets, the vendors, the street theatre, the never ending rebuilding. Certain neighbourhoods are brought to light: from the radical history of Clerkenwell to the commercial history of the Thames, its docks and its tributaries. Chapters are dedicated to prisons, madhouses, coffee shops, and pubs; and of course the people, their accents and attitudes, the poverty, the riots, the debauchery, and their ambition. And of course there are the Great Events: the Plague, the Fire, and the Blitz. It's densely researched, but extremely readable. Literary references and snippets of poetry are woven together with journal entries and historical accounts so beautifully, that it's almost as if Ackroyd is simply channeling the thousands of voices that have come before him. But gradually Ackroyd's own voice comes to the fore, and you realize this isn't a love letter to London written by a starry eyed dreamer, but a memoir written by a long suffering spouse; an honest, jaded, often critical account of someone able to appreciate London's virtues, but is unhesitating in pointing out its many flaws. One passage says it all (and certainly captures my first impression of the city): "The citizens of London live in a state of unnatural energy and uproar; they live in foul houses with no light or air; they are driven by the whip if business and money-making; they are surrounded by all the images of lust and violence. They are living in Bedlam". It's an awe-inspiring piece of scholarship - one could read and write for a lifetime and never come close to producing anything close to what Ackroyd's had accomplished here. Lord knows, it's taken me 15 years, off and on, just to read it. I'm glad I persevered.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lysergius

    A compendius history of the city of London from its inception as a Roman Imperial outpost to the largest and at the time richest city in the world. The author goes to great lengths to stress that this prosperity has always been achieved on the backs of the poor of London. So apart from the sheer physicality of the city itself, its size and extension and growth, what of its inhabitants? Who are they and where do they come from and how did they get there? The author goes to great pains to examine A compendius history of the city of London from its inception as a Roman Imperial outpost to the largest and at the time richest city in the world. The author goes to great lengths to stress that this prosperity has always been achieved on the backs of the poor of London. So apart from the sheer physicality of the city itself, its size and extension and growth, what of its inhabitants? Who are they and where do they come from and how did they get there? The author goes to great pains to examine the continuous influx of "Londoners" from all over the world. It is probably true to say that almost every nationality, sect and clique was represented at some time or another. As a Londoner-in-exile I found this a remarkable tome, the language is easy, and the tale is compelling. What more can you ask for?

  28. 5 out of 5

    ანა მაისურაძე Ana Maisuradze

    ესაა საოცარი წიგნი ლონდონზე, რომელიც ჩემნაირ რომანტიკოსებს, რომლებიც ოცნებობენ ვიქტორიანულ ლონდონში ცხოვრებაზე, უყვართ შერლოკ ჰოლმსის სამყარო და ა.შ. თვალს იხელს და სასტიკ სინამდვილეს აჩვენებს. სიბინძურე, ეპიდემიები, ხანძრები, სიღარიბე, ჩამოხრჩობები და ა.შ. ამ უშველებელ წიგნში ვერ ნახავთ ისტორიებს ლონდონის პოპულარულ მოვლენებსა და სიმბოლოებზე: ბიგ-ბენი, ლონდონის თვალი, ჯეკ მფატრავი, გლობუსის თეატრი და ა.შ. სამაგიეროდ არის ყველაფერი დანარჩენი. აკროიდი ლონდონს სისასტიკეს, პრობლემებსა და შეულამაზებე ესაა საოცარი წიგნი ლონდონზე, რომელიც ჩემნაირ რომანტიკოსებს, რომლებიც ოცნებობენ ვიქტორიანულ ლონდონში ცხოვრებაზე, უყვართ შერლოკ ჰოლმსის სამყარო და ა.შ. თვალს იხელს და სასტიკ სინამდვილეს აჩვენებს. სიბინძურე, ეპიდემიები, ხანძრები, სიღარიბე, ჩამოხრჩობები და ა.შ. ამ უშველებელ წიგნში ვერ ნახავთ ისტორიებს ლონდონის პოპულარულ მოვლენებსა და სიმბოლოებზე: ბიგ-ბენი, ლონდონის თვალი, ჯეკ მფატრავი, გლობუსის თეატრი და ა.შ. სამაგიეროდ არის ყველაფერი დანარჩენი. აკროიდი ლონდონს სისასტიკეს, პრობლემებსა და შეულამაზებელ ისტორიას გვიხატავს. თუმცა მიუხედავად ამისა ეს ქალაქი მაინც მიმზიდველი და სანუკვარია. პ.ს. გამოცემას აქვს ერთი დიდი მინუსი. მასში არ არის შეტანილი ილუსტრაციები, რაც ორიგინალში ძალიან ბევრია… :(

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    I bought this before we went to London in June. I wound up reading it more by dipping into it here and there, rather than sequentially. It's a lot of fun, because it's packed with the history of specific locations.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This is a massive book. With the text coming in at nearly 800 pages, it is at least twice as long as it really needed to be, but I couldn't help but be delighted at its contents. It meanders around chronologically-speaking, focusing instead on subjects--touching more heavily on things mostly neglected by other histories while neglecting topics one would expect to see, particularly in a work of this size. Completely absorbing, it is nevertheless a little too graphic in few places for my taste, pa This is a massive book. With the text coming in at nearly 800 pages, it is at least twice as long as it really needed to be, but I couldn't help but be delighted at its contents. It meanders around chronologically-speaking, focusing instead on subjects--touching more heavily on things mostly neglected by other histories while neglecting topics one would expect to see, particularly in a work of this size. Completely absorbing, it is nevertheless a little too graphic in few places for my taste, particularly in the chapters centering on crime and punishment. Still, an engaging read.

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