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“This magnificent evocation of all that London has meant down the centuries... I cannot begin to describe the richness with which Ackroyd pursues his theme... A blend of virtuosity and deep affection that is truly bewitching. Ackroyd has performed a noble public service in preserving in these pages so many centuries of marvels, and secrecies.” —Jan Morris
London: The Biography is the pinnacle of Peter Ackroyd’s brilliant obsession with the eponymous city. In this unusual and engaging work, Ackroyd brings the reader through time into the city whose institutions and idiosyncrasies have permeated much of his works of fiction and nonfiction.
Peter Ackroyd sees London as a living, breathing organism, with its own laws of growth and change. Reveling in the city’s riches as well as its raucousness, the author traces thematically its growth from the time of the Druids to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Anecdotal, insightful, and wonderfully entertaining, London is animated by Ackroyd’s concern for the close relationship between the present and the past, as well as by what he describes as the peculiar “echoic” quality of London, whereby its texture and history actively affect the lives and personalities of its citizens.
Here are two thousand years of London’s history and folklore, its chroniclers and criminals and plain citizens, its food and drink and countless pleasures. Blackfriar’s and Charing Cross, Paddington and Bedlam. Westminster Abbey and St. Martin in the Fields. Cockneys and vagrants. Immigrants, peasants, and punks. The Plague, the Great Fire, the Blitz. London at all times of day and night, and in all kinds of weather. In well-chosen anecdotes, keen observations, and the words of hundreds of its citizens and visitors, Ackroyd reveals the ingenuity and grit and vitality of London. Through a unique thematic tour of the physical city and its inimitable soul, the city comes alive.
London confirms Ackroyd’s status as what one critic has called “our age’s greatest London imagination.”
“Magnificent. . . . Succeeds in animating on the page the life of one of the oldest and greatest cities in the world.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Ackroyd is the most effortless guide. . . . This is much more than history: it is a tapestry of inspiration and love.” —The Observer
“An erudite labour of love, a fan-letter to a fabulous city. . . . As exuberant, energetic and alarming as the city itself.” —Independent on Sunday
“A fat and filling feast: pretty much everything of interest about the capital is crammed into the eight-hundred pages.” —The Times
“If London had the ability to choose its biographer it undoubtedly would tap Peter Ackroyd.” —Vanity Fair
“A wonderful book, a treasure of information and anecdote about one of the world’s great cities, a book to be taken up again and again for the pleasures that lie within.” —Chicago Tribune
“A book to match its subject . . . one gratefully rediscovers that urban unreality, the city of romance and mystery as well as the one of shops, pubs, and thoroughfares.” —The Washington Post