Customer Reviews


31 Reviews
5 star:
 (9)
4 star:
 (6)
3 star:
 (4)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (10)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Layers of London
This is the first book for a very long time that I simply haven't been able to put down. This should be compulsive reading for every Londoner! Stephen Smith has managed to bring to vibrant life the world beneath our concrete and glass city. History has never been so vivid with the sights and sounds of London gone by echoing in every page. The only down side is that it has...
Published on 12 Mar 2004 by Helen

versus
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A wordy book on London
It is a very wordy book, each chapter is an essay. The type of articles you get by a broad sheet journalist who is not limited by space and not in a hurry to tell the facts. It is a different perspective. Concentrating on trips he has made to the various subjects; down the sewers, bits of Roman wall under buildings. etc.
What it does not have is any photos or maps...
Published on 6 Jan 2005 by David


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Layers of London, 12 Mar 2004
By 
Helen (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This is the first book for a very long time that I simply haven't been able to put down. This should be compulsive reading for every Londoner! Stephen Smith has managed to bring to vibrant life the world beneath our concrete and glass city. History has never been so vivid with the sights and sounds of London gone by echoing in every page. The only down side is that it has made me aware of a whole world I am not allowed to be part of existing just a few metres beneath my feet (that and peering into every little door and window on the tube).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A wordy book on London, 6 Jan 2005
It is a very wordy book, each chapter is an essay. The type of articles you get by a broad sheet journalist who is not limited by space and not in a hurry to tell the facts. It is a different perspective. Concentrating on trips he has made to the various subjects; down the sewers, bits of Roman wall under buildings. etc.
What it does not have is any photos or maps. The lack of any maps especially I found annoying. They would have helped illustrate the articles and for the reader to find them himself.
The author must have put a lot of time into researching his data, I just found the style annoying to read.
This is a view of London you will either like or dislike.
I edged towards the latter.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mind the plague pit!, 13 Feb 2005
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets (Paperback)
News reporter and author Stephen Smith goes below pavement level in London, allowing the reader to vicariously explore burial crypts, dug-up plague pits, sewers, excavated Roman walls, remnants of Henry VIII's tennis courts, poncy wine cellars, secret government bunkers, the bowels of Parliament, and forgotten corners of the Tube.
For me, the the most intriguing chapter dealt with that subterranean environment most obviously accessible to the tourist, the London Underground ("Mind the Gap!"). Did you know that the most prevalent litter in the system, cleaned up during routine housekeeping between 1:00 and 5:00 AM, is human hair blown from the heads of thousands and thousands of train riders every day? Then, there are all those wallets plundered and discarded by pickpockets. And, though it won't be on my Must-Do short list for my next visit to the city, Smith's slog down the northern outflow sewer was gratifyingly informative.
However, UNDERGROUND LONDON is an uneven read. In the chapter dedicated to Anglo-Saxon artifacts, the author first describes a modern day ceremonial ritual involving holding a small schoolboy by his heels over the Thames while he beats the water's surface with a stick, and then goes on to describe the confiscated oddities to be found in the cellars of Her Majesty's Custom House. The connection between these and Anglo-Saxon period seemed forced. And the chapter in which Smith visits an underground vault of safe deposit boxes could just as well have been penned in the above-ground strong room at my local bank. No revelations there.
Perhaps the narrative's best features are the brief lessons in London history, past and recent, that Smith provides as background to the central theme: the evolution of city sanitation, the medieval plague epidemics, the theory and practice of the Thames Barrier, Henry VIII's obsession with tennis, the use of Tube stations as bomb shelters during the Blitz, and the British government's renewed interest in secure bolt holes after 9/11.
A criticism of UNDERGROUND LONDON has been that it includes no photos. Normally, I'd agree. But, in this instance, I'm not sure that the majority of Smith's subjects would've provided opportunity for interesting or instructive visuals. Somehow, a shot of the now-buried Fleet River churning along at the bottom of a well in Clerkenwell, or that of a disintegrating coffin in Kensal Green cemetery, doesn't seem necessary.
For those who love London, UNDERGROUND LONDON will be an occasionally rewarding ... um, travel essay. I'm awarding four stars simply because London is where my heart is. Otherwise, it would rate three, or less.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very uneven and mostly thin, 4 Feb 2009
This review is from: Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets (Paperback)
This is not a serious book about Subterranean London. If that's your bag try Richard Tench and Ellis Hillman's book. This is a more light-hearted, journalistic piece, which wouldn't be fine if the author had a sharp eye for telling detail and the wit of a Bill Bryson. Unfortunately he is equipped with neither.

Some chapters are better than others (was I alone in wondering what the beating of the bounds - including regatta ceremony on the Thames - had to do with underground London?).

All in all it was a struggle to find enough enthusiasm to finish it. Given the errors pointed to by other readers I wonder how much garbage I assimilated in having done so.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A wasted opportunity, 12 Aug 2004
I was very disappointed by this book. The secret world under London's streets is a potentially fascinating topic but this book contains little of that fascination. Most of it consists of chatty descriptions of guided tours taken by the author, right down to the inconsequential conversations he has with the guides. It reads like an overextended piece for a colour supplement, with very little in the way of interesting information and an awful lot of filler. If you're interested in London, there are many better books to spend your money on.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Highly Enjoyable, 14 Feb 2007
By 
J. Evans (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets (Paperback)
I picked this book up on the spur of the moment, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found to be a fascinating and highly enjoyable tour around some of the capital's unheralded subterranean features. Smith is an interesting and likeable guide, treating the subject with a deft, personal touch that makes the book stand out from drier 'straight' histories. This, combined with the diversity of the information he provides, makes this an excellent and accessible overview for general readers, and one that I'd highly recommend to anyone with an interest in London and its history.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought, 4 April 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets (Paperback)
The book is fascinating but it is not an easy read. Lots of interesting tidbits, but I found myself having to re-read several bits as I stopped really paying attention. Best if you are in a mood to really think, not light enough if you are not willing to concentrate.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the worst book I've read on London's Underground., 17 Oct 2007
This review is from: Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets (Paperback)
As an enthusiast for all things London and Subterranean, I was pleased to pick up this book as it promised an insight into areas I myself had not entered. I could not have been more dissapointed.
The prose style does nothing but irritate, and it is abundantly clear the occupation of the author is journalist. This minor niggle would have been fine were it not for the fact that all of the actual information presented by this book, ie the hard facts about dates, historical figures, and even quotes, are seemingly taken en masse from a single publication, that being the excellent "london Under Londer" by Hillman and Trench. How the book passes as original work astounds me, because being familiar with the other book I compared the two and noticed vast swathes were copied almost verbatim in lieu of proper research. And only one reference to the work in the entire text makes for a poor recognition of what must have been a vast input into Smith's work.
The bibliography itself is pretty shameful - listing a vast number of fictional works and very little meat for those wishing to read further details on the topics covered.
This book then mainly comprises of the author smugly entering the world beneath and systematically mocking those who aided him to do so. In one word: Avoid.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The otherside of London, 24 Jun 2004
Instead of the dry history book of dates and lists that I was expecting, this was a nice surprise. It deals with the authors trips in and around the London that we never see or has been forgotten about. The author tells you the story of his experiences in the underground of London for the places he has actually been to and seen with his own eyes. For a book about history on quite a long time frame, this does make a change. Normally, an author would use primary and secondary sources but to have one prepared to get his hands dirty like this must be commended.
The facts in this book are fantastic and sometimes quite disturbing. I was amazed to discover that underneath my feet could be a plague pit and that the Black Death virus buried there also is still as dangerous now as it was then. The passages on the Palace of Westminster and the Gunpowder Plot are of particular interest. The book details conversations with the people who work within these environments and their first hand accounts are worth the purchase price alone. The only downside of this work is the lack of pictures. It would have been nice to have some images to back up some of the stories.
For a different look at the history of London, this is an excellent place to start.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining anecdotes, 7 Jan 2010
This review is from: Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets (Paperback)
I noticed from other reviews that this book by Stephen Smith has been rated anything from one to five. The clue to the content of this book is in its' subtitle 'TRAVELS BENEATH THE CITY STREETS'. This is more of a collection of anecdotes about the author's quest to gain a better understanding of London by looking under the city streets rather than an attempt to provide comprehensive archeological and historical details of what is under there. Thus, its not a traditional book on history as such. However, there are plenty of interesting facts. For example, I was intrigued to find out that the reason Muswell Hill does not have a tube station is because a plague pit was found during tunnelling.

The book is divided into chronological chapters, from Roman into modern times, with two introductory chapters at the beginning, explaining why the author became interested in this subject and how he commenced his search (the sewers). The over-riding theme is to show how much London is a city literally built on history, and how the old intertwines with the new. For example Smith descibes a Roman wall that has been integrated into a car park, and a door located under a subway in Merton, leading to the ruins of an abbey.

Smith's dry sense of humour permeates the book throughout, and several times I found myself chortling out loud. The chapter on Saxon London was somewhat weak, but overall I found it entertaining enough to keep turning the pages, and there was enough information to increase my understanding and knowledge of London. However, those who prefer a more traditional approach to history may not get so much out of it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First
ARRAY(0xa7cc24d4)

This product

Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets
Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets by Stephen Smith (Paperback - 3 Feb 2005)
7.69
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews