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Thames: Sacred River Hardcover – 6 Sep 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (6 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701172843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701172848
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.1 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 52,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'(Ackroyd) presents his material as a cornucopia of treats and insights delivered from all directions' -- The Independent

'Ackroyd's fascinating history of the river and its citizens explores these associations thematically, constantly back-tracking and leaping forward in space and time'
-- The London Review Bookshop

'a beautifully produced book...There is so much to enjoy here'
-- Sunday Telegraph

'mesmerising...As soon as you open this account of the Thames, you will want to immerse yourself in it' -- Daily Telegraph

This week's best reading: `it's a mixture of macro and micro at which Ackroyd is particularly adept' -- The First Post

`A handsome book... hours of contentment for the armchair boatman... the range of information is impressive'
-- Irish Times

`His exhaustive reclaiming of the Thames inks in colourful new detail' -- TIME

`Peter Ackroyd's detailing of the life of the Thames is wonderful' -- Financial Times

`a rich offering by a masterly writer'
-- Times Literary Supplement

a 'meandering but magnificent tribute to our capital river...it is not just the subject that sets this book apart but also the compelling new perspectives that he [Ackroyd] brings' -- The Times

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. This hugely enjoyable book is packed with fascinating facts and insights: it will be another mammoth bestseller.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

123 of 127 people found the following review helpful By I. Curry VINE VOICE on 12 Sept. 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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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By William on 11 Feb. 2008
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 By Just William on 1 Dec. 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tony Ellery on 9 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover
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 By Alan Lenton on 9 Feb. 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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