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Thames: Sacred River [Paperback]

Peter Ackroyd
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
Price: 12.72 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Aug 2008

Just as Peter Ackroyd's bestselling London is the biography of the city, Thames: Sacred River is the biography of the river, from sea to source. Exploring its history from prehistoric times to the present day, the reader is drawn into an extraordinary world, learning about the fishes that swim in the river and the boats that ply its surface; about floods and tides; hauntings and suicides; miasmas and malaria; locks, weirs and embankments; bridges, docks and palaces.

Peter Ackroyd has a genius for digging out the most surprising and entertaining details, and for writing about them in the most magisterial prose; the result is a wonderfully readable and captivating guide to this extraordinary river and the towns and villages which line it.

Frequently Bought Together

Thames: Sacred River + London: The Biography + London Under
Price For All Three: 31.73

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  • London: The Biography 12.72
  • London Under 6.29

Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Paperback Edition edition (7 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780099422556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099422556
  • ASIN: 0099422557
  • Product Dimensions: 3.7 x 15.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"As rich and meandering and wonderful as its subject, this is one of the books of the year" (Sunday Times)

"Mesmerising... No one is better than Ackroyd at evoking the texture and atmosphere of the distant past... Ackroyd's gift is to write history in the idiom of a poet. As soon as you open this account of the Thames, you will want to immerse yourself in it" (Daily Telegraph)

"A beautifully produced book... There is so much to enjoy here" (Gillian Tindall Sunday Telegraph)

"Wonderful. He is comprehensive - everything from mammoths to the Dome is here - but he is also playful and eccentric, so that reading this book is like being in a boat on the river itself... Peter Ackroyd's writing is such a pleasure that Thames: Sacred River can be read all at once, with increasing delight, and afterwards dipped into, like stretches of the great waterway it charts and celebrates" (Jeanette Winterson Financial Times)

"A very enjoyable and highly idiosyncratic account of the subject" (Spectator)

Book Description

Thames: Sacred River displays the same qualities as London: The Biography : scholarship, wit, discursiveness, lovely descriptive writing, anecdotes, spirit of place, narrative and character.

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
121 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Father Thames finds a perfect biographer 12 Sep 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The hugely industrious and readable Peter Ackroyd has released what can be seen as a follow up to the rather amazing `London; A Biography' with `Thames: Sacred River'. This substantial book charts the history of the River Thames, the vital waterway at the heart of London life for centuries. Given the history of this vital conduit is pretty much the history of the metropolis, at least until the invention of the railway, it allows Ackroyd to delve once more into the murkier and less well known depths of London history.

Ackroyd is never a writer to deliver a straightforward narrative history. And in many ways his subject matter lends itself to this meandering, potted approach. As the river twists and turns, is fed by tributaries and becomes the mighty estuary feeding into the North Sea, so too does the book change subject, period and characters with each chapter. Broad subjects are covered, trade, communications and naval associations, but Ackroyd has a gifted eye for the smaller details and more obscure gobbets of history.

Ackroyd is best served by two key attributes, a voracious appetite for research and a style of prose that is both intelligently accessible and deliciously evocative. It is almost with an unrestrained glee that the author tackles the subjects associated with the river, the same clear interest that sustained `London: A Biography'.

However it is important to note that the book is wider than just being a follow up to that book. The Thames flows from its source at Thameshead to the sea, and as well as London flows through Oxford, Reading and Henley. It encompasses royal history, passing within sight of Windsor, next to Hampton Court, and through Greenwich. It is the artery connecting the heart of empire, London, with the world.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strangely compelling 11 Feb 2008
By William
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Rather like The Thames itself, this book has a mysterious beguiling quality. It draws you in and won't let you go. Ackroyd's prose, his playful mingling of history and legend, his almost overwhelming attention to detailed research combine to make this a compelling, oddly unsettling read. I learned so much.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars swept away 1 Dec 2007
Peter Ackroyd's bestseller London: The Biography seemed to be part of a fashion a few years ago to write 'The Biography' of any kind of inanimate object ranging from the Bible to the Moon. It was however a fascinating journey through the history of the capital and as a Londoner myself I still get a thrill walking through some of the ancient streets and passages (especially those around the river) thinking of who else has been there before me. So what of this history of the river itself?

Following a meandering course this book is divided into short thematic chapters such as 'The Working River' and 'The River of Art'. With this approach Ackroyd is able to write not only about the history of the river but what it represents. Some reviewers have complained that this way of writing is not suited to the subject but I found it refreshing and invigorating to read a writer who sees the river in similar terms to the other great rivers of the world. The Ganges is seen as sacred in India and all life in Egypt runs alongside the Nile. In Britain, the Thames has always been associated with power and industry, literally the lifeblood of the capital but its influence is also felt along its full length from Thameshead to the sea.

If there is a problem it is that Ackroyd tends to give us all of his copious research and so the myriad of facts in each short chapter, whilst thematically linked, can feel a little disorganised. It is his trademark enthusiasm which keeps the momentum going though and as we follow the river's course it is hard not to get caught up in its wake. I am sure there are better textbooks available for those who want a more serious study but just as his book on London provided a popular, accessible history of the city this companion volume is sure to do the same for its famous river.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A meandering journey, just worth taking 9 Feb 2009
I am not surprised that this book delights and exasperates reviewers almost in equal measure. Ackroyd's marvellous knowledge of London and its surroundings, and his seemingly endless store of anecdotes and nuggets of historical information, make this book worth reading. But be ready to be annoyed by repetitiveness, sloppy editing, and a division of chapters by theme that makes the overall timescale of the history hard to follow.
Just about any other contemporary author would have been unable to write a historical treatise of this ambitious scale without imparting a more rigid formal structure. Ackroyd shakes unconnected snippets of London life from his huge sleeves like a magician, and just about gets away with it,.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book to dip in to 9 Feb 2008
This is an interesting and eclectic look at the River Thames by the author of 'London: The Biography'. The meat of the book is a series of vignettes dealing with different aspects of the river, its people, and it's environs. Also included is what the author titles 'An Alternative Topography, from source to sea' which is fascinating in its own right. This is really a book to dip into, rather than to read from end to end, and in some places it gets a little too mystical for my taste. It has it's own fascination, though, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it - especially to read in bed before you go to sleep.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The history of the river Thames
I was very pleased with this book, I had been unable to source one locally when looking earlier in year. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Margaret Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars All you need to know about the River Thames
A comprehensive and engaging read which brings the History of the Thames alive. It also deals with the tributaries of the Thames
Published 14 months ago by Rev. T. J. Carter
5.0 out of 5 stars good purchase
The book arrived on time. It was well packaged and reasonably priced. It was a good buy and I would use this company again.
Published 15 months ago by Ms. S. H. Pether
5.0 out of 5 stars Am still reading Thames, but so far I've enjoyed the book and would...
This is another well researched book by Peter Ackroyd about a subject that's clearly to his heart. Has it been televised?
Published 15 months ago by Steve Wishart
3.0 out of 5 stars A Showpiece of Words Parading as Erudition
This is an odd and frustrating book; I found it really hard to read it through to the end. His book on the Thames is neither a linear journey through time nor one through space;... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Nicholas Casley
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
Having read other books by this author I knew what to expect and I really enjoyed reading it. Have put it to one side and shall re-read some time in the future.
Published 20 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Murky metaphor
Thames: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd purports to offer a sister volume to the highly successful London: The Biography. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Philip Spires
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and a good read
I found the first few chapters boring and too full of waffle but once it going it didn't dissapoint. Read more
Published on 4 Mar 2012 by E. Potter
5.0 out of 5 stars Ackroyd on the Thames again.
Peter Ackroyd is the Londoner's Londoner, someone who lives and breathes his birthplace with the fascinated mind of a historian, social critic, architectural observer and... Read more
Published on 26 Sep 2011 by RR Waller
5.0 out of 5 stars Thames - Historical Super Highway
A present for my Mum, who is a Londoner and absolutely lapped it up..

What's on either side of the Thames is crammed with history. Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2011 by Michael Field
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