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on 3 September 2007
So much seems to have been written about Brick Lane in the last few years, most notably Monica Ali's novel. But this wonderful book tells a completely different side of the story of one of London's most famous streets.

Rachel Lichtenstein, herself an artist, seems to have assembled the most amazing collection of people - both current inhabitants and people whose families have been involved with the area over the last couple of centuries: Jewish jewellers, workers at the old Truman Brewery, market workers, artists and writers whose lives have been touched by the street's history in some way. She tells their stories with great empathy and, while there is an authorial voice which carries the narrative along, she manages to let each person recount their stories with such freshness that you get a real sense of history unfolding. By the end of the book, you feel that this strange cast of characters have become personal friends.
It put me in mind of David Kynaston's wondeful book, Austerity Britain.
One of my books of the year.
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on 6 September 2007
It would be easy to think - after Monica Ali's and the raft of more contemporary artist/designer/DJ books and articles, that Brick Lane was a street capable of being viewed from a single cultural perspective. In this fascinating, comprehensive and ultimately, very real book, Rachel Lichtenstein proves conclusively that it simply cannot.

As she gathers together faces from all immigrant populations and juxtaposes them with the stories of their offspring, and the more recent immigrants (the artists/designers/DJs), Lichtenstein does not try to make order from the chaos of Brick Lane's recent history. Rather, she celebrates diversity, perspective and the multiple facets of this long street with its equally long history. The result is complex, fascinating and completely absorbing. Perhaps most of all, the stories come from the mouths of her range of interviewees, making it very, very real.

I believe she is going to use the same technique next to document Hatton Garden. Can't wait.
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VINE VOICEon 30 July 2009
I needed to find out much more about the East End as part of a project I'm involved in and I must say I was impressed by this book. Lively and engaging, thoughful and reflective, it is a credit to the author's ability to summarise what must have been a wealth of information. Such micro-histories may not garner the publicity associated with maintstream historical writing (usually focusing on the 'big' issues) but as far as quality goes Rachel Lichenstein puts many an academic writer to shame. A delight to read (which I wasn't necessarily expecting). The voices of the people she interviewed come to life wonderfully - and what interesting lifes they have led.
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on 19 September 2007
I was really pleased to see this book released a few weeks ago. Rachael Lichtenstein writes a contemporary account of Brick Lane and its current and past inhabitants. What impressed me most about the book is that the author didn't just concentrate on one of two of the well known groups, like the Jewish and Bangladeshi immigrants. She spent time talking to artists, the infamous Sandra from the Golden Heart, and a whole host of other people that make up the area. As a former resident in the old Spitalfields Market buildings, I got a real feel for the area, and the types of people she writes about.

The area has gone through a lot of changes in the last few years, and the new crowd, "Trustafarians", as one of her subjects calls them, are now as much a part of the new Brick Lane as the more established groups. The encroachment of the City and the general gentrification of Spitalfields, and the former Huguenot homes, will have a lasting impact on the area.

Above all, I'm glad this book has been written from an historical perspective, so future generations can get a feel for some of the characters that epitomised Brick Lane in 2006/2007, and have some understanding, through first hand accounts, of the types of people that lived there in the last century.
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on 24 March 2011
What i enjoyed - Great interviews with a wide variety of interesting people who have something to say about the area they live and/or work in.
Some things jarred - such as the way the author disapproves of the trendiness of the area, and yet she is one of the many artists who have contributed to the street's 1990s/2000s arty, hip image.
On a practical note - I really wish the book had included a map!
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on 30 March 2015
This book was recommended by the London Walks Tour guide
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on 22 October 2016
Classic back ground read
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on 21 November 2016
My wife loved it
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on 14 December 2016
Bought as gift.
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on 29 November 2012
The book arrived promptly but it was not as interesting as I expected it to be. Maybe it would have been better if I'd known the area. A lot of research had been done but the way it was presented was messy.
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