Saturday, March 9, 2019
By Peter Ackroyd
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.
Ackroyd, P. (2009). London: A biography. New York: Anchor.
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