27 August 2011

Review: London Under | Peter Ackroyd

If you've ever been intrigued by what lurks beneath the road or the footpath, then this is the book for you. Peter Ackroyd takes the reader beneath the surface in London Under and investigates the murky depths of tunnels, sewers, hidden rivers and streams and the history of long ago London.

History buffs will relish the chapter on the locations of old wells and springs, and their relevance in the naming of streets. I was surprised to find that precise access points to tunnels, sewers and even old war bunkers are referenced and described in the book; to the point I began to consider whether this information could be a security risk.

Nevertheless, Ackroyd provides the reader with an amazing insight into the building of the first tunnel beneath the Thames River and I found myself easily visualising the first journey through the tunnel in horse and carriage. I also enjoyed reading more about the Fleet Street 'ditch', the Roman history beneath London, the development of the Tube and the use of the Underground during the War.

London Under is a short read at around 210 pages (including sketches), however in addition to the facts and history, I was hoping for a little bit of a shock or a scare. I was hoping to read about animals or deformed creatures living underground (real or tales) or information on homeless population living underground. Ackroyd did explain that the Church wasn't in favour of tunnelling underground for public transport, as they were of the opinion that the underground was the devil's territory. But for the most part, London Under is a well-structured and sensible book about the history and services located beneath the surface of London.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

2 comments:

TBM said...

I'll have to check this book out. Thanks!

Tracey said...

You're welcome, let me know what you think. It was just recently published, so there may be a long wait at the library.