Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Review: LONDON UNDER, by Peter Ackroyd
So I figured I didn't really have time for Peter Ackroyd's massive London: A Biography, but I wanted to get some background of the city before I visit in the fall, so I picked up his companion volume, a short book about the history of the city under the city- the rivers that flow beneath the streets, the ruins, and of course the Tube. Due to some sedimentary features of the city and environs there are layers upon layers of stuff down there. Ackroyd gives us a little tour.
It's pretty interesting, too. I learned a little about Roman London, about the network of rivers that mirror the streets above, the history of the sewer system, the growth of public transportation and with it urban life, and more. Ackroyd writes in a lively and entertaining style, treating the city like a character with secrets and a past- which it does have. He talks about excavations that were done during this or that period of construction and the things that people found- as well as the things that people buried, like other people, neglected Tube stations, emergency-preparedness centers and more. Some of these places you can visit today; others are barred or restricted, or too dangerous for the public.
It's all fascinating. If you're interested in London and have read about it or been there, I definitely recommend the book but it seemed like it was better for someone with a little experience of the city. I think I should have waited to read it until I knew more about the city, maybe until after my visit, and I may very well re-read it once I've been there. It's neat and you'll learn a lot though!
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.