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Downriver Paperback – 29 Apr 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (29 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141014857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141014852
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 380,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'The Thames runs through Downriver like a great, wet wound. This is a work of conspicuous and glorious ill-humour. Something is happening in this text that makes it necessary to go on. Crazy, dangerous, prophetic' Angela Carter 'One of those idiosyncratic literary texts that revivify the language, so darn quotable as to be the reader's delight and the reviewer's nightmare' Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

The Thames may still flow through the heart of London, but life along its shores has dramatically changed. In Downriver, Iain Sinclair traces the ruin of Thatcher's reign, through the lens of a fictional film crew that has been hired to make a documentary about what's left of the river life that was.

Downriver is a savage, satirical quest to understand how people's lives, a government's policies, and a legendary waterland conspire together in a boggling display of self-destruction.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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'And what,' Sabella insisted, 'is the opposite of a dog?' Her husband, Henry Milditch, continued to ignore her. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Geoff on 8 July 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was the first 'big' book by Iain Sinclair, both in profile and length. There is some wonderful writing dotted about in it: the historic Tilbury and Maze Hill he conjures have a vivid strangeness familiar from his earlier poetry and prose, for example. But by god there's a lot of unfocused misanthropy here too. He hates everything, in the most hackneyed (ha!) terms: in the first 100 pages alone, there are cringe-worthy rants about alternative comedians, his (wonderful) previous books, people who take him to free dinners and give him fun jobs, the government, women who protest against the government, people who write articles criticising the government, people who went to the wrong universities, people who - like him - buy houses cheap in lovely squares recommended by John Betjeman, people who live in East London, people who don't live in East London, people who did live in East London and now don't, you.... I'm sitting there ready to join in but he never persuades me: they're all just bad cause he says so and that's that. He's not good at plot, satire, character, or structure in a work this length, but Downriver is still conventional enough in style (realism punctuated by historical visions) that it isn't really a formal experiment, or a Thomas Bernhard-style dynamic rant either. Beyond that it's difficult to put your finger on what's so "off" about the feel of the thing, considering its promising ingredients. The women who feature in his books tend to be dead and usually prostitutes, that probably doesn't help. And, while he's good at detailing the headspinning property cons going on by the riverside, he doesn't have much political insight beyond them - bit of a problem when you're presenting some kind of apocalyptic Thatcherite hell.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 Mar. 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this because I read somewhere (Evening Standard ?) that this and Mother London were the two best novels about London. Together -- and they are very different 'reads' on the city although often linked together -- they do make a monumental picture of a living, richly textured capital. Other writers never seem to get as thoroughly involved with their material as Sinclair and Moorcock who almost seem to think the city IS them. That is, where a writer like Martin Amis will really be writing about himself in some way and his responses to what he sees, Sinclair and Moorcock seem to ABSORB themselves in the city -- accepting it, lock, stock and occasionally smoking barrel -- and celebrating it. That celebratory note is what unites the books. This is not your usual wimp's response to the Terrors and Pitfalls of the Big City. This is I LIKE IT HERE, CRAP AND ALL. The mocking lyricism is another thing which sometimes echoes across both books. These are sophisticated writers, but they are writers of passion and they are both romantic writers in the best, most intelligent sense. Impatient with orthodoxy, suspicious of received ideas, they go and look at everything for themselves and bring us back their reports. You can't ask for better than that. You do get better than that, because you get some glorious writing and wonderful characters. Downriver is constructed as twelve interlocking narratives and has a rather monumental Victorian structure to it. It feels a bit like the Tower of London, too. Mother London in contrast is the Kew Tropical Plant House with shafts of light falling forever unexpectedly on things we hadn't noticed before. Downriver is also full of things we hadn't noticed before and I am now re-reading it because I am discovering more things I hadn't noticed the first time!Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Keith M TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 July 2012
Format: Paperback
Towards the end of Iain Sinclair's 1991 novel Downriver, two of the novel's main protagonists, the narrator (a Sinclair character himself) and his associate, the sculptor Joblard, find that their journey 'downriver' has taken them to the Isle Of Sheppey, where a cricket match is about to take place on the beach. I was trying to come up with a sporting metaphor for the novel (or just Sinclair's literature more generally). If I were forced to go the cricket route, I would opt for someone like Kevin Petersen; if, however, I were to follow my initial line of thought and focus instead on football, then Christiano Ronaldo would, for me, fit the bill. Namely, a man who demonstrates mind-blowing feats of skill, but who (certainly when playing for Portugal, if you get my meaning) is unlikely to assist in the production of a coherent, all-round team effort.

Sporting analogies aside, this is an amazing novel but one which is only partially successful for me. Style-wise, I would place it alongside the likes of Will Self - although it has also been compared to Burroughs and Joyce. With a narrative about as clear as a view of the North Sea from the Aberdeen shoreline in December, Downriver comprises 12 separate chapters (with interlinked stories), the running thread of which is our narrator, book-dealer and aspiring film-maker Sinclair, whose adventures on and around The Thames take in as bizarre a cast of characters as I've ever come across, and whose focus is the changing face of East London and its environs in the Thatcher era.

The scope of Downriver is vast and demonstrates Sinclair's unparalleled (or, at least, deeply researched) knowledge of the history of his adopted home in East London.
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