2005-04-06 · in Books · 173 words

This book wasn't quite what I was expecting. It's a comprehensive history of London, but organised thematically rather than chronologically -- so there's a chapter about alcohol, another about opera and musical theatre, a third about women's issues, another about Newgate, and so on. Each of the 79 chapters is an essay about its subject, gathering quotations from a wide variety of sources along with the author's observations.

I'd cautiously recommend this book, but as something to dip into rather than to read straight through -- I've been reading chapters between other books for the last few months. I find the author's comments on the sources annoying at times; his observations can be interesting and insightful, but much of the book reads rather like a GCSE History essay. I would also have liked a better reference to sources; the book as it stands is of little use as a reference, because the listing of sources in the back is not usefully indexed (and it's not obvious to me whether it's complete or not).