3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Day Parliament Burned Down (Hardcover)
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The Palace of Westminster is very clearly a Victorian building. I can remember asking my parents why it was so new, a question to which they had no answer. This book is that answer, and it describes an event that at the time was a famous disaster but which has been strangely forgotten. It's an important part of our national story, and it's good to at last have a detailed account of the events of that night.
The author, Caroline Shenton, is in charge of the Parliamentary Archives. She uses narrative techniques to describe the events of the day in 1834 when much of the palace burned down, but at the same time she creates context out of the history of the palace - it had been a royal residence from before the Norman invasion - and the society and practices of the time. The narrative is an exciting read, while the contextual information is for the most part enlightening. Learning about the organisation of the various London fire brigades, and indeed the sinecures and deputisation of duties in the Palace of Westminster, is hugely interesting; we can excuse Shenton a long lament about all the precious documents that were irrevocably lost in the fire.
There are several plans of the Palace and its environs that I found very useful as a reference; the body of the text is 262 pages long, and is followed by extensive notes and an index. There are also some black-and-white plates; this is the only disappointment: it would have been better to see Turner's watercolours of the fire reproduced in colour.
It's pleasing to have a history of a specific event that manages to be informative and almost as exciting to read as an adventure story.