London Under by Peter Ackroyd
The Secret History Beneath the Streets

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...goes mildly overboard in conjuring up their presence for the reader. In a more practical regard, the book, which refers many times to locales likely unfamiliar to North American readers, could also have used a few maps. These minor deficiencies, however, are not fatal to this brisk and fascinating book.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

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.
 

About Peter Ackroyd

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PETER ACKROYD is an award-winning novelist, as well as a broadcaster, biographer, poet, and historian. He is the author of the acclaimed Thames: Sacred River, London: The Biography, and the first volume of his history of England, Foundation. He holds a CBE for services to literature and lives in London.
 
Published November 1, 2011 by Anchor. 240 pages
Genres: History, Travel, Education & Reference, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Jun 03 2011

...goes mildly overboard in conjuring up their presence for the reader. In a more practical regard, the book, which refers many times to locales likely unfamiliar to North American readers, could also have used a few maps. These minor deficiencies, however, are not fatal to this brisk and fascinating book.

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