LONDON: A History

A. N. Wilson, Author . Modern Library $21.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-679-64266-4

Wilson opens his history of London with a metaphor of buried rivers and buried past, evoking various little-known tributaries of the Thames, and in particular tracing the course of the Fleet River, now buried beneath streets and buildings, evidence of its existence apparent in the structures, place names and damp basements of the city. Thus biographer, critic and novelist Wilson (The Victorians ; Tolstoy ; etc.) expresses a sense of history leaving traces that can be teased out by thoughtful observation, alongside his love for and exasperation with a city that insists on remaking itself. He alternates describing architecture (both extant and long gone) with retelling events that filled the streets and fleshing out cultural and social subtleties, from Roman times through the heyday of Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian London. He finds fault with city builders in almost every era and rails against the vandals of the past for the lost architecture and physical spaces of the city. His critic's eye gives his observations a curmudgeonly tone that becomes increasingly political as he approaches the present and excoriates recent policies and projects such as Centre Point and the Millennium Dome. Overall, he evokes a particular energy as the more essential quality of the city and forgives London for its faults. Historically and literary minded visitors will find much in this book to guide them and deepen their understanding. (On sale July 6)

Reviewed on: 05/17/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 166 pages - 978-0-7538-2027-8
Open Ebook - 100 pages - 978-0-307-42665-9
Hardcover - 166 pages - 978-0-297-60715-1
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-4193-0278-7
Paperback - 221 pages - 978-0-8129-7556-7
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4498-8879-4
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