London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

December 2004

Peter Ackroyd is a Londoner born and bred, and the love, hate, awe and despair that the city inspires in him overflows on the pages of this massive book. The book is packed to the brim with oddities, anecdotes, history, myths, facts and fictions about every twisting alley, grimy building and lonely corner of London. The book isn't chronologically organized, or geographically organized, but rather roughly thematically organized, which means that any given chapter may whisk you from prehistory into the present, from the East End to the West End, from the South Bank to North Wembley and all points in between. This makes the book something of a whirlwind ride, which is great while it lasts - but which left me with no hope at all of actually remembering even a fraction of the things I read over the course of nearly 900 pages. Oh well, it was good fun anyway. Most interestingly, Ackroyd portrays London just as I have always imagined it to be: as a breathing creature with a life of its own, crouched on the banks of the Thames and swallowing everything in its path, with something manic and perhaps malevolent in its nature, and with buildings and streets so saturated with history that the stones crack from the pressure of it all. London is a fantastic place in every sense of the word, and this book is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest cities in the world.

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