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In this vividly descriptive short study, Peter Ackroyd tunnels down through the geological layers of London, meeting the creatures that dwell in darkness and excavating the lore and mythology beneath the surface.
There is a Bronze Age trackway below the Isle of Dogs, Anglo-Saxon graves rest under St. Pauls, and the monastery of Whitefriars lies beneath Fleet Street. To go under London is to penetrate history, and Ackroyd's book is filled with the stories unique to this underworld: the hydraulic device used to lower bodies into the catacombs in Kensal Green cemetery; the door in the plinth of the statue of Boadicea on Westminster Bridge that leads to a huge tunnel packed with cables for gas, water, and telephone; the sulphurous fumes on the Underground's Metropolitan Line. Highly imaginative and delightfully entertaining, London Under is Ackroyd at his best.
“Irresistible. . . . [A] short but fascinating history of the capital beneath the surface.” —The Financial Times
“Wondrous. . . . Ackroyd follows seemingly all the rivers, streams, pipes, sewers and tunnels that ever crisscrossed the city.” —The New York Times Book Review
“There is perhaps no other English writer today as dedicated a Londoner as Peter Ackroyd. . . . A memorable homage to [London].” —The San Francisco Chronicle
Beautiful. . . . Each chapter has a vital story full of intriguing detail. . . . Ackroyd writes with his usual enthusiastic flair, and entertains us with chthonic demons and treasures.” —The Columbus Dispatch
“Relentlessly interesting urban mythology, from unearthed Roman galleys to subterranean Cabinet War Rooms.” —New York Daily News
“Throughout the book, Ackroyd is not just interested in London’s hidden relics; he’s interested in what they—and the idea of an underground—mean to a culture. London’s underworld is a ‘shadow or replica of the city,’ and it is also a shadow of ourselves and our thoughts, the stuff that’s discovered when we open the trapdoor.” —The Daily Beast
“Anyone intrigued by this tumultuous city will devour London Under in a few transporting hours. . . . Packed with revelations. . . . Ackroyd's stylistic brilliance explains why the book remains a rattling good read.” —The Independent (London)
“For Peter Ackroyd, the subterranean world holds a potent allure. London Under, his brief account of the capital’s catacombs and other murky zones, manages to radiate a dark mystery and sulphur reek. . . . Fascinating. . . . Peter Ackroyd illuminates the shadow world within us all.” —The Spectator
“With quick, deft stitches he sews the fantastical and the familiar into a macabre sampler of the city that exists beneath the feet of its citizens.” —The Times (London)
“As ever his research is meticulous, his scope expansive, his writing definitive. Every sentence is delivered with judicial gravity and command. . . . Once again, Ackroyd shares his vision of a mythical city most do not see.” —Time Out