Top positive review
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Bringing History to life
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.