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London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streetsby Peter Ackroyd
Synopses & Reviews
London Under is a wonderful, atmospheric, imaginative, oozing short study of everything that goes on under London, from original springs and streams and Roman amphitheaters to Victorian sewers, gang hideouts, and modern tube stations. The depths below are hot, warmer than the surface, and this book tunnels down through the geological layers, meeting the creatures, real and fictional, that dwell in darkness—rats and eels, monsters and ghosts. When the Underground’s Metropolitan Line was opened in 1864, the guards asked for permission to grow beards to protect themselves against the sulfurous fumes, and named their engines after tyrants—Czar, Kaiser, Mogul—and even Pluto, god of the underworld.
To go under London is to penetrate history, to enter a hidden world. As Ackroyd puts it, “The vastness of the space, a second earth, elicits sensations of wonder and of terror. It partakes of myth and dream in equal measure.”
From the Hardcover edition.
In this vividly descriptive short study, Peter Ackroyd tunnels down through the geological layers of London, meeting the creatures that dwell in darkness and excavating the lore and mythology beneath the surface.
There is a Bronze Age trackway below the Isle of Dogs, Anglo-Saxon graves rest under St. Pauls, and the monastery of Whitefriars lies beneath Fleet Street. To go under London is to penetrate history, and Ackroyd's book is filled with the stories unique to this underworld: the hydraulic device used to lower bodies into the catacombs in Kensal Green cemetery; the door in the plinth of the statue of Boadicea on Westminster Bridge that leads to a huge tunnel packed with cables for gas, water, and telephone; the sulphurous fumes on the Underground's Metropolitan Line. Highly imaginative and delightfully entertaining, London Under is Ackroyd at his best.
About the Author
PETER ACKROYD is the author of London: The Biography, Shakespeare: The Biography, Thames: The Biography, and Venice: Pure City; acclaimed biographies of T. S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake, and Sir Thomas More; and several successful novels. He has won the Whitbread Book Award for Biography, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Somerset Maugham Award, among others.
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