Thames: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

Thames: The Biography

Download Thames: The Biography

Thames: The Biography Peter Ackroyd
Language: English
Page: 512
Format: pdf
ISBN: 0385526237, 9780385526234

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. For a river with such a famous history, England's Thames measures only 215 miles. Acclaimed novelist and biographer Ackroyd (Hawksmoor; Shakespeare) invites readers on an eclectic, sprawling and delightful cruise of this important waterway. The Thames has been a highway, a frontier and an attack route; it has been a playground and a sewer, a source of water and a source of power, writes Ackroyd. Historians believe the river may have been important for transport and commerce as early as the Neolithic Age. The ancient Egyptian goddess Isis has a long association with the Thames, which was used for baptisms, both pagan and Christian, during the Roman Empire. The British tribes tried to use the Thames as a defense against Julius Caesar's invasion, and the Normans built the Tower of London and Windsor Castle on the Thames as symbols of military preeminence. The royal waterway carried Anne Boleyn to both her coronation and her beheading, and famously served as inspiration for paintings by Turner and Monet and for Handel's Water Music, commissioned to associate the German-born George I with a potent source of English power. Elegant and erudite, Ackroyd's gathering of rich treats does the famed tributary proud. Illus., maps. (Nov. 4)
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This lavishly produced volume is Ackroyd�s omnivorous paean to �the shortest river in the world to acquire such a famous history.� Eschewing standard organization, Ackroyd jumps from today�s posh London banks to Roger Bacon�s observatory at Grandpont to Dickens�s �deathlike and mysterious� waterway. We learn about the riverbank�s many species of willow (white, weeping, crack, cane osier), and about the Retribution and the Belliqueux, eighteenth-century prison boats that each held hundreds of men. A chapter on types of sludge through history makes one grateful for today�s raw sewage, as opposed to the �Intrails of bestes� that washed up in the fifteenth century. A survey of the many ways in which the river can kill notes that most Thames suicides remain �anonymous and unlamented.� Not every tidbit will appeal to every reader, but the book demands to be read as it was written, according to one�s fancy.
Copyright ©2008

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