London: The Biography
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.