- Gebundene Ausgabe: 192 Seiten
- Verlag: Chatto & Windus (2. Mai 2011)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0701169915
- ISBN-13: 978-0701169916
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 14,2 x 2 x 20,5 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: Schreiben Sie die erste Bewertung
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 237.679 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
London Under (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 2. Mai 2011
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"This book is not a straightforward history of London's relationship with the clay on which it stands but a poetic invoking of what Ackroyd perceives as the diabolic terror of the earth."
"Other worlds lurk below London, and Ackroyd revels in them. The book is both an absorbing history of those parts of the capital that lie beneath our feet and a meditation on the meaning we give them."
—Adrian Tinniswood, Literary Review
"A literary, cultural and topographical sat-nav for going underground in London... 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."
From the author of the bestselling London: The Biography, a poetic and powerful urban history of life and legend beneath LondonAlle Produktbeschreibungen
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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. They have been redirected underground, conducted through pipes and tunnels and emptying into the Thames, just as they used to do without our help. The underground rivers and sewers were not uninhabited. Official workers had to go in from time to time to clear things out, and they risked getting into a region of no oxygen or being present when the gasses around them exploded. Unofficial workers were also present, the "toshers" who scavenged in the sewers for anything of value. After the horror of "The Great Stink" of 1858, London installed a sewer system that is still working today. You know of Christopher Wren's masterpieces aboveground, but Ackroyd cites Joseph Bazalgette as an engineer of genius who devised the comparable masterpiece of the sewers below. Of course the Tube gets its chapters. The first escalator was installed in 1911, and it was a sensation. Some people were frightened of the machines, but the management hired a man with a wooden leg to ride up and down to demonstrate that there was nothing to fear.
Ackroyd's style is solidly literary, with plenty of erudite references to classical and biblical legends of the underworld. He conveys with eagerness the gloom and danger but also the fascination and historical richness of the unseen depths. He takes in a large amount of history, gathered into chapter themes that are more-or-less chronological. It is not always a pretty or hygienic picture, but it is fascinating on every page.
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.
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.
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.
It would be interesting to see what David Macaulay might have done with this same material. Or National Geographic. Or even a decent editor.
Ackroyd is clearly smart, but this seems to have been a book dashed out with a concept but no coherent approach. Tough to make such interesting material inaccessible, but that's just what he did.