London: The Biography

Front Cover
Chatto & Windus, 2000 - Social Science - 822 pages
36 Reviews
Londonis perhaps the most important study of the city ever written, and confirms Ackroyd's status as what one critic has called "our age's greatest London imagination." Much of Peter Ackroyd's work has been concerned with the life and past of London but this new work is his definitive account of the city. For Ackroyd, London is a living organism, with its own laws of growth and change, thus the subtitleA Biography(as opposed toA History). The book differs too, from histories, in the range and diversity of its contents. Ackroyd portrays London from the time of the Druids to the beginning of the twenty-first century, noting magnificence in both epochs, but this is not a simple chronological record. There are chapters on the history of silence and the history of light, the history of childhood and the history of suicide, the history of Cockney speech and the history of drink. Londonis fully comprehensive, animated by Ackroyd's concern for the close relationship between the present and the past. He describes the peculiar "echoic" quality of London whereby its texture and history actively affect the lives and personalities of its citizens. All of Ackroyd's writing has been strongly linked with London - from novels such asHawksmoorandThe Plato Papersthrough his biographies of what he calls his "great Cockney visionaries": Dickens, Blake and Thomas More. Now, at last, his obsession with London takes centre-stage.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - sscarllet - LibraryThing

I have no words for this book - it's just amazing. I've read it three times now, once before I moved to London as a student, once just because and once before I moved to London permanently, and I will ... Read full review

Review: London: The Biography

User Review  - Karli - Goodreads

This book is a fantastic achievement. Every aspect of the city is both explained and connected. Its motivations and desires are laid bare. To an American, it cannot help but be interesting as this ... Read full review

Contents

The city as body
1
You be all law worthy
47
London contrasts
69
Copyright

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Contemporary British Novel
Philip Tew
No preview available - 2004
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About the author (2000)

Peter Ackroyd was born in London in 1949. He graduated from Cambridge University and was a Fellow at Yale (1971-1973). A critically acclaimed and versatile writer, Ackroyd began his career while at Yale, publishing two volumes of poetry. He continued writing poetry until he began delving into historical fiction with The Great Fire of London (1982). A constant theme in Ackroyd's work is the blending of past, present, and future, often paralleling the two in his biographies and novels. Much of Ackroyd's work explores the lives of celebrated authors such as Dickens, Milton, Eliot, Blake, and More. Ackroyd's approach is unusual, injecting imagined material into traditional biographies. In The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde (1983), his work takes on an autobiographical form in his account of Wilde's final years. He was widely praised for his believable imitation of Wilde's style. He was awarded the British Whitbread Award for biography in 1984 of T.S. Eliot, and the Whitbread Award for fiction in 1985 for his novel Hawksmoor. Ackroyd currently lives in London and publishes one or two books a year. He still considers poetry to be his first love, seeing his novels as an extension of earlier poetic work.

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