Saturday, March 9, 2019

London: A Biography - Book Review

London: A Biography

By Peter Ackroyd

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton





London: A Biography is not a biography in the usual sense of the term. True, Ackroyd is an excellent writer who is adept at weaving together bits of archaeology with a historical note and a dollop of quotes from a novelist. I did enjoy the book, but it was not what I expected.


As a Londoner, I hoped to discover new insights into the nether regions of the past and present. That hope was realised. In fact, I am looking for some of the books Ackroyd mentioned in his closing essay.



I suppose any biographer has to pick and choose among the many events in a long life that tell an interesting story. The author has chosen well. Would I have chosen differently? Yes. I would like more about science and history with fewer quotations from literary sources. I read about so many churches, but I did not learn much about the interaction of the people with their churches. I read about a few royals and captains of industry, but most of the time I was reading about those who struggled to survive. I almost expected to see family names when he took us down dour lanes for a dip in the cloudy culture of those hamlets south of the Thames.

Reference

Ackroyd, P. (2009).  London: A biography. New York: Anchor.


My Books on AMAZON






Tuesday, February 5, 2019

They Shall Not Grow Old




They Shall Not Grow Old is a profoundly moving tribute to the soldiers of World War I. Peter Jackson (Director; coproducer with Clare Olssen) and his team combine enhanced archival films, photos, audio recordings, and artwork to bring us face to face with the adolescents and young men living and dying along the Western Front.

On the brief skeleton of the sequence of the war years, this documentary tells an extraordinary tale of ordinairy men from the farms, factories, and shops of Great Britain to the muddy graves of the ragged pattern of muddy trenches along the Western Front. Humour and games offer parenthetical relief from the abysmal struggle.

The colourisation and 3D conversion along with other technological modifications help us glimpse the soldier's world of 100 years ago. Many of us have read about the war and seen the old black and white clips bounce by at unnatural speeds. The marvel of technology helps us get closer to real people living and dying on orders from above. We wonder with the story tellers what it's like to live unwashed for days, smell the unberable stench of death, and cope with the raging thunder of artillery.

Whatever one thinks of war, the film is worth seeing to better understand this troubling period when millions died. Jackson worked with the extensive materials in the archives of the Imperial War Museum. Thus, the focus is on the British soldier. Although the film mentions other allies, it is worth remembering that millions of men and women from many nations were in combat zones in Europe and other places around the globe. Perhaps we can get a glimpse of what it might have been like for others from this in-depth look at these young British lads.

In the epilogue, Jackson mentions his grandfather and other connections to the war. That's what brings it home for me as both my grandfathers were in France. Considering the millions who died and survived with or without impairments, there are likely many millions currently alive who have grandparents who can pass along stories of their fathers, mothers, and uncles. Now is the time to remember the men and women of 1914-1918 and to keep a vigilant watch over the decisions our politicians make when it comes to starting or entering a war.




CAUTION: This film contains graphic and disturbing content and may not be suitable for all viewers.


Movie site They Shall Not Grow Old 2018.

Advertisement
I write books. Check out my selection on AMAZON