BY PERMISSION OF HEAVEN: The True Story of the Great Fire of London

Adrian Tinniswood, Author . Riverhead $24.95 (331p) ISBN 978-1-57322-244-0

In this history of the 1666 fire that destroyed almost the entire city of London, Tinniswood focuses on the political, legal and cultural significance of the catastrophe. He describes the blaze through the written accounts of both London's commoners and upper crust during the three-day blaze. These excerpts from journals and newspapers aren't quite able to place the reader in the shoes of Londoners while they ran for their lives or watched all their worldly possessions get swallowed by the fire; Tinniswood's greatest achievement is his ability to re-create the wave of paranoia that engulfed London before, during and after the tragedy. Though he never compares the rumors that the fire was part of a papal plot against the king or the handiwork of Dutch arsonists to today's terrorist fears, the similarities should help keep readers interested while pushing through this meticulous collection of historical references. An architectural scholar, Tinniswood saves his best for last, outlining the myriad factors that went into creating the landscape of modern-day London, including bureaucratic decision making and the emergence of architect Christopher Wren, about whom Tinniswood wrote in His Invention So Fertile . Illus., maps. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-1-59448-039-3
Paperback - 330 pages - 978-0-7126-6847-7
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4464-0271-9
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