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London: The Novel Hardcover – May 14, 1997

575 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Edward Rutherfurd belongs to the James Michener school: he writes big, sprawling history-by- the-pound. His novel, London, stretches two millennia all the way from Roman times to the present. The author places his vignettes at the most dramatic moments of that city's history, leaping from Caesar's invasion to the Norman Conquest to the Great Fire to (of course) the Blitz, with many stops in between. London is ambitious, and students of English history will eat it up. The author doesn't skimp on historical detail, and that's a signal pleasure of the book. Ultimately, though, the structure of the novel determines the lion's share of its success. Rutherfurd is a good storyteller and each vignette makes for a good story; however, he has given himself the inevitable task of beginning what amounts to a new book every 40 pages or so. Just as one begins to warm to the characters, they are hurried off the stage. You can't read London without a scorecard—but that's part of the fun.

From School Library Journal

YA. Certainly not for the fainthearted, this 800+ page novel on the history of London is true to the author's form. Rutherford so skillfully weaves detailed fiction and fact that YAs may have to head for the reference books to verify which is which. Basically, the story is London's evolution from a trading post to the seat of an Empire and the families who lived that history. Through the adventures and everyday lives of these characters, one can go to Shakespeare's Globe Theater, tend the plague patients with Dr. Richard Meredith, attend hangings at Newgate Prison, weep at the loss of life and limb due to "God's fire," visit the taverns with Chaucer and his pilgrims, and have other experiences in this exciting city. A special book for readers who have a burning interest in history and the stick-to-itiveness to finish and reflect on it. A perfect choice for the summer hiatus or winter holidays.?Carol Clark, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 829 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publishers; 1st edition (1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517591812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517591819
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (575 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Edward Rutherfurd was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and educated at Cambridge University and Stanford University in California. His first book, Sarum was based on the history of Salisbury. London, Russka,The Forest, Dublin and Ireland Awakening all draw on finely researched details of social history. Edward Rutherford has spent much of the last 30 years living in New York and Conneticut. He has an American wife and two American educated children and has served on a New York co-op board.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

147 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Brian Jay Jones on January 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a big, sprawling, initially intimidating (mainly because of its heft) but ultimately rewarding read -- a journey that follows several British families, from all walks of life, through 2,000 years of London's history. You'll start with the Druids and Caesar's crossing of the Thames, and finish with The Blitz and a bit of modern arachaeology. In between, you'll watch history come to life (each chapter revolves around a major event in British history), with the usual artistic embellishments expected of historical fiction. But it's all in the name of good fun, so don't be a stickler -- sure, modern-day English didn't come out of the mouths of the Tudors, but who cares? Rutherford is, for the most part, faithful to reporting events As They Really Happened and to Life As It Really Was.
While it's the Ducket/Doggett/DuQuette family that serves as the focus of the book (keep looking for those folks with the webbed fingers and the shock of white hair as you read), it's the City of London itself (and, arguably, its architecture) which is the book's real showpiece. Be prepared to stick an extra bookmark at the front of the book where the maps are, because you're going to need it. If there was a Roman road leading out a City gate, Rutherford has marked it in the text and you're going to walk down it eventually, so get your bearings early. The cast of characters also grows exponentially through the years, as family trees are wont to do, so keep the page of the family trees marked as well.
This isn't a novel (as the cover proclaims) so much as it is a series of vignettes linked by a constant (and consistent) narrative and cast of characters, and Rutherford makes the most of it.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Sergio Breton on January 18, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I had not read Rutherfurd's other books when I picked up London, but I imagined that it was much in the epic style of James Michner whom I have read extensively. In a sense I was correct, but I was unprepared for the complexity of this book. It is easy to understand that the main character of the book is the city itself, the sheer number of other characters is a little overwelming. Where Michner takes a few families through the vagarities of history, Rutherfurd throws several families at us who are continuously intermarrying throughout the history of the city. After a while it got a little difficult to follow who was who, but it did not hinder my enjoyment of the characters at any particular moment whether he was a wealthy 3rd century Roman or a poor 19th century East-Ender.
However, the most fascinating aspect of this book was the historical growth of London. With each chapter, Rutherfurd reveals more and more characteristics of London such as how certain areas acquired their names or their architectual features. Rutherfurd shows us how gradually the Thames went from the greatest uniter of the people of London to its greatest divider.
All in all, though London didn't keep me reading until four in the morning, I always looked forward to picking it up again the next day.
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130 of 146 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kendall VINE VOICE on February 28, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Rutherford takes on the formidable task of relating 2,000 years of London history and must be given some credit for the result. He has obviously done a great deal of research of his subject and doesn't overburden the reader with an overly detailed , dry, scholastic recounting here. Considering the amount of ground he covers, (taking us from the period of Roman occupation to the German Blitzkrieg), he does so rather economically. The problem lies in his failure to provide us with a coherent narrative. His framing device of a hidden hoard of gold Roman coins comes off as contrived. His method of detailing generational threads leaves a lot to be desired. Though he strives for at least a quasi-realistic approach, how often, in real life, do succeeding generations mirror their ancestors to a degree they do here? Rutherford's approach is in fact anti-Darwinian. There is very little in the way of variation as one generation succeeds another. The offspring are practically clones of their forbears, with the same attitudes, attributes and overall composition. The bad seeds spawn more bad seeds. The good, honest, simple folk likewise pass on their exact characteristics to their children. Normally, in family trees, there is at least nominal deviation. Not so in Rutherford's London. The device makes it easier for the reader to make connections as the eras pass forth, but true history, we remind ourselves, doesn't happen this way.
The book, therefore, succeeds as a primer in the history of a city. We are given the relevant details of the Roman conquest, medieval revolt, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the Great Plague, followed shortly thereafter by the Great Fire, etc., etc. Keep in mind, however, that it is a primer only.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Coombe on February 10, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Excellent book. Yes, you can probably guess many of the elements (corrupt clergy, greedy merchants, whoremongering, capital punishment, plague, filth - what a great time to be alive!). But the chapters (each of which are separate stories, tracing family members through the centuries) are very skillfully crafted. I also enjoyed the way the author incorporated major historical events into the fiction. While some history buffs may scoff at mixing history with fictional characters, I thought the author did a great job of delineating between the two.
One caveat, however. The author weaves many landmarks and names from modern-day London into the plots, thereby explaining their historical origins. If you are not familiar with the city, these references could become annoying background noise. But if you have been to London, these tidbits add a great deal to the enjoyment of the work.
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