Non-fiction book about the underground history of London.

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Page count: 202
Publisher: Vintage Books

London Under is a rather quick look into London’s rich history. Ackroyd starts with a general glimpse in how people feel about underground places. Then he moves on to the underground springs, rivers, and sewers. In the last few chapters he tells about the London underground railway, and how it was built. He also talks about books and films based on the London underground.

I found the book to be pretty interesting but Ackroyd only mentions briefly the part which I find most fascinating; the archaeological finds of ancient times. I was also very interested in the psychological parts. On the one hand, people tend to hate and fear underground places and shun other people who are forced to live underground, for whatever reason. But on the other hand, underground springs are seen as holy and during war times, people took shelter in the underground stations. Ackroyd also lists some ghost stories set in the trains or train stations.

I don’t live a city with an underground, but I use a lot of buses and trains so I understand the feeling of being both part of a crowd and alone when traveling in public transport. I’ve traveled on the London underground a couple of times, years ago, but I don’t remember much about it anymore.

The book has quite a few pictures, drawing and photographs, which I liked a lot. I think the book could have benefited from maps, too. I’d love to go to London with this book and look up some of the places.

Overall, I found this to be a decent look into London’s history but it’s so short the Ackroyd can’t really concentrate on any topic but has to move along at a brisk pace.

He apparently has a similar book about Venice (Venice: the pure city). Has anyone read that? Or The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein?

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