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London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets [Kindle Edition]

Peter Ackroyd
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.01 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Kindle Edition $9.99  
Hardcover, Deckle Edge $21.68  
Paperback $11.77  
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Book Description

London Under is a wonderful, atmospheric, imagina­tive, oozing short study of everything that goes on under London, from original springs and streams and Roman amphitheaters to Victorian sewers, gang hideouts, and modern tube stations. The depths below are hot, warmer than the surface, and this book tunnels down through the geological layers, meeting the creatures, real and fictional, that dwell in darkness—rats and eels, mon­sters and ghosts. When the Underground’s Metropolitan Line was opened in 1864, the guards asked for permission to grow beards to protect themselves against the sulfurous fumes, and named their engines after tyrants—Czar, Kaiser, Mogul—and even Pluto, god of the underworld.

To go under London is to penetrate history, to enter a hid­den world. As Ackroyd puts it, “The vastness of the space, a second earth, elicits sensations of wonder and of terror. It partakes of myth and dream in equal measure.”


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

Review

PRAISE FOR LONDON: THE BIOGRAPHY

“Magnificent. . . . Succeeds in animating on the page the life of one of the oldest and greatest cities in the world.” —New York Times Book Review

“A wonderful book, a treasure of information and anec­dote . . . a book to be taken up again and again for the pleasures that lie within.” —Chicago Tribune



From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

PETER ACKROYD is the author of London: The Biography, Shakespeare: The Biography, Thames: The Biography, and Venice: Pure City; acclaimed biographies of T. S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake, and Sir Thomas More; and several successful novels. He has won the Whitbread Book Award for Biography, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Somerset Maugham Award, among others.

Product Details

  • File Size: 18252 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004KPM16M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,336 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Depths of History November 18, 2011
Format:Hardcover
There is plenty to see in London, and the prolific Peter Ackroyd has written about the city itself, the river that runs through it, its Great Fire, and much more. In his most recent work, however, he takes us down to underground parts that we don't get to see (except for the famous Underground itself). _London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets_ (Nan A. Talese) is an appreciation of the wonderful and the appalling that supports or slithers within the foundation of the great city. There is throughout a dual emphasis here. We think of the ground beneath us as the realm of the devil, for instance, but also it is where there is buried treasure, if we only knew where to dig. It is the region of sewers, and also of sacred wells. Historian Ackroyd obviously loves the subterranean theme, though, because, as he repeatedly shows, each age is built on the one before, and so the levels of history are written within the soil. This is a beautiful little book, brightly organized into chapters, each of which has a vital story full of intriguing detail. Ackroyd writes with his usual enthusiastic flair, and entertains us with the chthonic demons and treasures.

Workmen in 1865 were digging beneath Oxford Street, and found a flight of steps. They descended, and found an arched brick structure, probably a Roman baptistery with the spring bubbling up in it still. Was it rescued and renovated and put on the long list of London's important sights for visitors? No, it was obliterated to make a foundation for a new building. The new constantly covers up the old. Plenty of springs and wells and streams have been buried. There still are streams, but they no longer run down the hills and meander through the fields.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing December 29, 2011
By SMT
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
How can a book by Peter Ackroyd be disappointing? He is among the most erudite of contemporary historians. His works are the perfect balance of historical fact and engaging writing. He is a gifted writer of fiction and non-fiction. Any reader familiar with his work would expect 'London Under' to be another example of his considerable skill.

Instead, as other reviewers agree, this little book is a disappointment. Perhaps readers should be grateful that it is so short, because it is a clumsy collection of facts hastily flung together and coupled with vague gestures towards historical analysis. Here and there a few shining sentences show Ackroyd's brilliant touch. The rest of the book reads as if a junior researcher had arranged a series of notecards for the author to glance at in his spare time. Chronological hiccups and non sequiturs litter the pages. Glaring omissions will disturb readers with even the slightest interest in the subject; how is it possible, for example, for a study of underground London to make no mention of Churchill and the Cabinet War Rooms, other than in a caption for a photograph? Dull lists of dreary facts bore even the most avid reader; compare Chapter 12: The War Below with the Wikipedia page 'Air-raid shelter'.

Only die-hard Ackroyd fans need read this and prepare, my friends, to be disappointed.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I learned about this book via an NPR radio interview with the author. It sounded fascinating, and Mr. Ackroyd sounded like he could elaborate well and tell a good story, in addition to listing facts about the historical and rare glimpse into the subterranean world under this great city.

Unfortunately, this book read like a long list of facts. Facts, facts, facts. Under this building is x. Beneath that grate is y. Etc, etc etc. A single paragraph could tell you about a dozen different underground "things," yet apart from rattling them off, one or two per sentence, there was usually very little or no context, interesting tidbits about the fact, or story to make it truly an interesting read. The content of this book could have been formatted as a very long bulleted list of all the underground places of interest and it would have been no less interesting. Where the author does once in a while depart into a story or anecdote, it's short, too infrequent, and fails to hold enough of my interest.

Not to mention, on my Kindle, the book abruptly ended with a short chapter about aliens forcing our future human generations into the sewers, at just 61% of the way through! (the remaining 39% was bibliography, glossary, etc.).

This is my first book review, and I read a lot, so this book obviously had enough of an impact on me to go out of my way to write this. I thought the price was a little steep but expected a very interesting read. Yes, some parts were interesting, and I learned a lot of FACTS, such that if I was to go to London and want to explore hidden places I probably couldn't get access to, I'd make a list from this book, but it wasn't fascinating, nor did I feel it was a good value.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly researched recitation of dry facts June 28, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My mind is boggled by the immensity of the research that must have gone into creating this book. It is a collection of facts that is almost unbelievable in scope. For a person who is doing a scholarly study of the topic, this book will be an invaluable resource.

However, I was hoping for a little entertainment. Okay, I admit that I silently mouthed, "Wow!" two or three times. There are a couple of fascinating tidbits scattered here and there. However, here is a typical example of the writing:

"From Marylebone Lane the Tyburn follows a southward course across Oxford Street, where it then turns southeast into South Moulton Lane. Brook Street is named after it. It then pursues a circuitous course through Mayfair before finally emerging into Down Street where naturally enough it descends into Picadilly.... The Tyburn then crosses Green Park, flows past..."

You get the idea. Nearly the entire book reads like this, a dry, boring recitation of facts that few people would be interested in. This is too bad, because this book could have been made into a masterpiece with a little more imagination and a touch of drama.

Tim
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars The shallows
Peter Ackroyd has written many glorious and erudite works in his long career, but this is one of his most disappointing. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jay Dickson
3.0 out of 5 stars could use a map, badly
Very interesting but it became tedious when the author would list off the streets or areas underground tunnels ran under as if I was a London cabbie. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Anita K. H. Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Ackroyd, fascinating as usual
There seems to be no subject that Peter Ackroyd can't make sound interesting - and even a bit romantic. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Jean Houston
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book
Since my team is building an archaeology model of a section of an earlier time of London, this book served an fascinating background with lots of unique stories and data. Read more
Published 10 months ago by M N
5.0 out of 5 stars Well, I didn't know that!
The way Ackroyd writes is so engaging and deep. Who would ever have thought so much could be found underneath London or any city? I read every book of his I can. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Dee
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
Fascinating look at London and its underground environs. Recommend it to anyone who enjoys a little different view of history
Published 15 months ago by Marty
4.0 out of 5 stars Short and fascinating
The book blurb from the FT says this book was "short but fascinating", and I thought that was pretty accurate, except for the "but" as I don't find brevity a problem. Read more
Published 15 months ago by MT57
5.0 out of 5 stars Unseen intriguigingly revealed
Beautifully written. The subject is fascinating. I would recommend it to anyone but especially those interested in what lies underground.
Published 15 months ago by Jean E. Slanger
4.0 out of 5 stars It was as I had expected,arrived in good time and condition
I bought this book as a gift for a family member, it was recommended by a friend and is intriguing.
Published 15 months ago by Beedy
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This book is time travel. Seeing, hearing, smelling, you are aware of underground London as it once appeared above ground in ancient history when Romans lived there, Shakespeare's... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Violablue
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