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London Under Paperback – 5 Apr 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (5 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099287374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099287377
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 52,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Ackroyd is the author of biographies of Dickens, Blake and Thomas More and of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River. Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, as well as a broadcaster, biographer, poet and historian. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

Product Description

Review

"Ackroyd is a knowledgeable and evocative guide to London’s different archaeological levels" (Times Higher Education Supplement)

"As ever his research is meticulous, his scope expansive, his writing definitive. Every sentence is delivered with judicial gravity and command...Once again, Ackroyd shares his vision of a mythical city most do not see" (Euan Ferguson Time Out)

"While many authors have shone a flashlight on London's catacombs and tunnels, Ackroyd's vision is infra-red...skilled at connecting the past, present and future...For those looking for a highly readable introduction, plumb and depth to get a copy" (Londonist)

"This book is not a straightforward history of London's relationship with the clay on which it stands but a poetic invoking of what Ackroyd perceives as the diabolic terror of the earth" (Claire Allfree Metro)

"Other worlds lurk below London, and Ackroyd revels in them. The book is both an absorbing history of those parts of the capital that lie beneath our feet and a meditation on the meaning we give them" (Literary Review)

Book Description

From the author of the bestselling London: The Biography, a poetic and powerful urban history of life and legend beneath London.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 67 people found the following review helpful By K. Eden on 18 April 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a big fan of both Ackroyd's factual and fiction work I was looking forward to this book. His biography of London is a tour de force but London Under, whilst well written, is hardly definitive.
It is a slim volume and perhaps Peter was at a loose end one weekend and knocked this one out for his publishers.
The bibliography says it all. There are more (and better)books available on London's secret underground and any serious reader wanting to know more is better advised to look elsewhere than here. For someone just starting with an interest then this maybe the one start with.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Dilberto on 19 April 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've been a big fan of Ackroyd's, and for some while, but this feels thin, sort of rushed and - I know - all surface. If it had someone else's name on the spine I maybe wouldn't have noticed the shortcomings so much, or at least not thought about them a great deal, but this author's byline raises expectations and this time they've been dashed. Almost everything in this book I've read before, somewhere else, and often in greater depth. The writing's good, no question, but the content feels decidedly shopworn.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By The Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Sept. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Oh deary me Mr Ackroyd, what have we here? The most striking thing about
'London Under' is that the author's heart is very clearly not in it.
This is a book which barely skims the surface when it could have dug
deep and come back with a catalogue of riches. A fumbled opportunity.

The treatment of his subject (and what a potentially truly engaging subject!)
is repetitive and uninspiring; the language is dull and the detail dumbed-down.
Next to his wonderful treatise 'London : The Biography' (2000) this is a mere
shadow of a shadow. Mr Ackroyd is coasting; surely he knew we would notice!

For a more enlightening read I would recommend Stephen Smith's 2005 book
'Underground London : Travels Beneath The City Streets' for a far more
entertaining and engaging read and (although unrelated) Luc Sante's
marvellous tome ' Low Life : Drinking, Drugging, Whoring, Murder, Corruption,
Vice and Miscellaneous Mayhem In Old New York' (1998) for a beautifully
detailed account of the social and material archaeology of the underbelly of
another great city. Mr Ackroyd's 'London Under' cannot hold a candle to either.

Only If You Must.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating little book, with much to learn and enjoy packed into its 182 pages. Peter Ackroyd is a great writer and the narrative flows along. Here we have underground rivers, the complex of secret government tunnels and offices which lie beneath most of Whitehall and beyond, the underground, the sewers, and the wide cast of characters who have made their livings from them.

London is built on compressed clay, so fewer skyscrapers than New york which is built on rock, and the 27 feet beneath our feet are the repositories of roman relics, bath houses, personal artefacts, pots pans and the like. Much was discovered during the rebuilding after the blitz - most will never be found as the new stands so frequently directly over the old.

Here too are the plague pits, still unsafe as the anthrax spores last for hundreds of years, hauntings, and the poems of the underground

What a lovely, fascinating book - highly recommended
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bibliophile on 13 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover
I had high expectations of this book, but looking at the size of the volume I knew that there was not going to be a great deal of depth in the writing, and that proved to be the case. Peter Ackroyd has a vast knowledge of London, as you would expect if you had read his weighty tome on London, but some how this book never really gets going. It throws up some interesting facts about what is happening beneath our feet in London,and shows the knowledge that Peter Ackroyd has about London, but it does not go further than that. I suppose you are meant to use the bibliography to develop your knowledge further.
Not his best book, but snippets of interest that made it ok

don,but
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By Mac McAleer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback
This is an easy and intelligent read that will delight any fan of Peter Ackroyd's writing and any fan of London. Its structure means that there is no heavy commitment and it can be read in many different ways, not just sequentially. It is really an extended essay. Anyone who wants a detailed description of all the wonders to be found underneath the city should consider this an overview and introduction, then look elsewhere for more information.

Having produced the best-selling and well-received London: The Biography, Peter Ackroyd has written this book about what lies beneath the city. It is a short companion piece in 13 chapters spread across 182 pages. His style is readable and erudite with short, well-formed sentences and occasional literary quotations and references; this culminates in the 7 pages of the last chapter, "Deep Frontiers", which is all about literary references. It is the sort of book where the chapters can be read in any order and at any time.

He discusses the forgotten natural waters of London, the streams and rivers, now underground. Then there are the man-made waters, the pipes and conduits (thus Conduit Street, Lamb's Conduit Street) and the water mains. There are the sewers, the tunnels, the Tube and the secret world of the government bunkers. The author is always entertaining and informative.

Underlying underground London, literally, is its geology.
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