London: The Novel
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London: The Novel

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4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  13,440 ratings  ·  832 reviews
Edward Rutherfurd belongs to the James Michener school: he writes big, sprawling history-by- the-pound. His novel, London, stretches two millennia all the way from Roman times to the present. The author places his vignettes at the most dramatic moments of that city's history, leaping from Caesar's invasion to the Norman Conquest to the Great Fire to (of course) the Blitz,...more
Hardcover, 829 pages
Published 1997 by Century Books
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Natalie
A sprawling historical novel as big as London itself - it was required reading before I went to study abroad and I've read it twice since. Rutherford did an incredible amount of research and it all comes together beautifully. The characters' family trees carry through the entire history of Britain - pre-Roman through WWII. This book is so dear to my heart!
Dave
The third book of Rutherford's that I've read of this type. Have previously read Sarum and Russka and this book pretty much followed those; nothing really surprising or extraordinary about this book.

I suggest reading this book for more of the historical facts than any sort of story-telling. As a history of London (and England) it's nice in that it's not too dry and involves a little bit of fictional aspects. However, the fact that the characters change every couple of chapters (as the narrative...more
Chariti King Canny
I did not like this book, and probably won't finish it though I'm 3/4 of the way through. The author goes from life to life through the history of London, and because it's such massive history, is unable to give details about the characters and environments that I usually adore. Because of this lack of detail I feel disconnected from the characters and the story. I chose to read it after going to London and wishing I could learn more about the historical day to day. I think reading seperate book...more
Margaret
It's odd to read a 1,124 page novel and feel that it's too short. This is not a "haute" literature novel, but rather a sprawling ramble through the history of London - the terrain and its people - made accessible through a series of chronological tales told through the ages. As with "Sarum," Mr. Rutherfurd follows different families over the centuries, with their stories intertwining due to coincidence, marriage, and friendship. This book genre is terrific for learning little known facts, such a...more
Laura
Ugh. Every physical description of a female character began and ended with her breasts. Wooden prose, stilted dialogue -- actually, the only thing I enjoyed about this book were the descriptions of London as it grew and changed. If Rutherfurd had written a story about the city itself, rather than bringing characters into it, I might have enjoyed it more. Maybe a better writer will attempt that book.
Mary JL
Mar 11, 2011 Mary JL rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any fan of historical fiction or hisotry
Recommended to Mary JL by: Discovered it myself
Shelves: fiction-classics
This is a long book--I will be a few days on this one. Looks good so
far.

************
Tuesday 1/6/09. Now on page 365 of London. Still good. Will review when finished.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Finally finished London (we have been a bit busier at work).

The historical details of this book are excellent. I know a bit out history and there were no obvious errors or jarring anachronisms....more
Karla (Mossy Love Grotto)
It started out fine, but about 3/4ths of the way through, the repetition (particularly every era having a character with an odd streak of white hair) got to be annoying, and in a 1100+ page book, it ended up seeming interminable.

Rutherfurd's got a schtick of writing massive doorstoppers following one family over the course of millennia. There's intimate domestic dramas and high points in history all mixed together. A fine formula, but once is enough. I tried reading his Russka: The Novel of Russ...more
M.G. Mason
Edward Rutherford writes mammoth books where the central character is a place and the people in them are incidental and used to drive the plot across a given time period (usually several thousand years). It is a formula that has worked well and gained critical and popular acclaim. ‘London’ is the third such novel of his I have read; the other two are ‘Sarum’ and ‘The Forest’.

‘London’ contains all of the best and worst elements of those two books. In ‘Sarum’ the characters and their situations ar...more
Debie
If you happen to like hauling around 1000+ page books with you for weeks, you'll love this one! Although not in the same league as Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End", this is a nice book for Follett fans who are suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms after finishing those two great novels.

I probably could have done without the first 200 pages, I really didn't need to know how the White Cliffs of Dover were formed to lead into the rest of the book, but once I got pas...more
Matthew
Enjoyed this thoroughly though I concede it is popular rather than literary fiction. I haven't read other Rutherford books but I understand the concept is similar -- follow a few families, with distinguishing physical and personality traits, down through the ages from nigh pre-historic all the way through to contemporary world (the 1990's in this case), weaving history in with (fictional) biography. There is a quite an array of characters, and although some of them are stock or have elements of...more
Patricia
Hot summer days between the move and the arrival of household goods - no better time to start a long epic by Rutherfurd. I discovered this book was loaned to me about ten years ago by someone who doesn't want it back. I love these Michener-like authors who start with the creation of the earth and bring it through the centuries to modern day time, especially when, like Rutherfurd, they have families who intertwine through the epochs and are followed from earliest times to the present.

I also love...more
Lindsay
London: The Novel is an entertaining, albeit long, read. It takes some time to get into the book; you have to make your way past some dry geographic passages and slow character development. Each chapter is its own short story which could probably stand on its own. Since the author couldn’t use the same character through two millennia, he has simplified the character development by using several families and their descendents. Different genetic traits and/or attitudes reoccur through the ages—giv...more
Lisa
This was a lonnnnnnnnnnnng book! It traces the history of London, from Roman times up through the 1990s. The author cleverly establishes several families and follows them throughout the various historical periods of London's history. It was a fascinating book, and I learned a great deal about the city, the history of British royalty, the origins of buildings and businesses in London and also the origins of many archaic says we still use today. I enjoyed the book, but it was a little too long for...more
Tony Taylor
Edward Rutherfurd belongs to the James Michener school: he writes big, sprawling history-by- the-pound. His novel, London, stretches two millennia all the way from Roman times to the present. The author places his vignettes at the most dramatic moments of that city's history, leaping from Caesar's invasion to the Norman Conquest to the Great Fire to (of course) the Blitz, with many stops in between. London is ambitious, and students of English history will eat it up. The author doesn't skimp on...more
Emily
The great strength of "London" is the author's ability to interconnect the vignettes that make up this massive novel. The main character is not human, but the city of London itself; Rutherfurd doesn't spend enough time on any one character to really make this a strong novel. Nevertheless, it's a very fun (and sometimes informative) read, especially if you're a fast reader and want to kill some time.

The first few chapters made me cringe a little. The initial setups are unbelievable and work out a...more
Kelsey McKim
I read this as a crash course in London history before studying abroad in the old English city. While I do feel much more familiar with the city's (and England's) basic history, the book didn't have as much merit as literature. There are a few things I want to specifically address:

-Character development is lacking, which makes sense because the book takes place over thousands of years. As others have said, the main character is London itself, but the individuals in the book were often flat and/o...more
Tmayoral
I adored Edward Rutherford's Sarum, Russka, and the two Ireland books. However, London is just falling short of these other books. While it is keeping me entertained enough to want to continue (I rarely if ever stop reading a book, I've done it twice in my life) it isn't enough for me to sit down and want to keep reading past a few pages. The issue for me is I'm having trouble with the main characters. I've only had this problem when I read War and Peace. Rutherford has created names that while...more
Barbara
Nov 29, 2009 Barbara is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
A long time ago I saw Sarum in a bookstore, started reading it, and realized after a while that standing there reading that engrossing but LONG book was making my feet ache. The irresistible solution was to buy the book! Since then I've bought Russka, The Forest and London (Russka has been sitting unfinished on a shelf for quite a while, but I plan to remedy that)...and my next Rutherfurd purchase, since I could use some weight training that doesn't involve lifting cats, will probably be New Yor...more
Joy
I loved this book. The vast time periods and sprawling family trees actually made learning about the history of London downright fascinating. It was intriguing the events the author included, skimmed by, and even just skipped right over! But overall, I would recommend [and have!] to other literature lovers, travel buffs, history fans. It's a great, albeit extremely long, read!
Linnaea
The prose is pedestrian and the characters are pretty one dimensional, but I'm a sucker for multi-generational historical novels of the kind that require a family tree to keep track of.
Talena
This was the first book I read by this author and though it was difficult to stick with at the beginning, I found myself soon burning through the pages. Much like Michener, here we see the history of London brought to life. I truly believe that 'those who forget history are doomed to repeat it' and think this is an excellent way to avoid dry, monotonous texts and get right to the vital lessons that can be learned from the past. Not only an insight into the rise and fall of the various rulers of...more
Rob
...On the whole I thought London was a better novel than Sarum. It's more balanced I suppose. Rutherfurd doesn't need to make to many large jumps in history since there is plenty of material from the Norman Conquest onwards. It makes the ride a bit smoother. I thought the way Rutherfurd managed to keep the attention focussed on the city, always using the outlook of London's citizens on events in the wider world in his story very well done. With twenty-one different sections set in different peri...more
Catherine Fitzsimmons
A loaner from my mother-in-law, this is a truly epic story of the city of London, as told through the lives of a handful of families throughout its entire 2,000-year history.

This book didn't immediately draw me in. The writing was rather dry and the characters weren't overly interesting. But, it was enough to keep me reading, and it wasn't long before I found myself riveted, and not because the writing or characters improved. This book really brought history to life, telling how changing monarch...more
Seamus Bradley
This book is quite an undertaking. Its scope is vast. It tells the story of London through the lives of its inhabitants from just before the Roman invasion of Britain up to 1997. I did like this book, it is well written, interesting and mindblowingly epic. It takes the form of a series of short stories about several connected families throughout the history of the city.

There are, however a couple of things about it that bugged me. First occasionally there was a paragraph or a couple of pages of...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I read and enjoyed Rutherfurd's Russka and didn't realize till near the end in what contempt he held his female characters, but by a few stories into this one it was unmistakeable.

Now let me be clear: I'm not objecting to the lack of rights and opportunities women have in the distant time periods portrayed. That's historical accuracy. But a modern author demeaning women, portraying them as interesting only in regards to their relationships with men, is inexcusable.

I'll give an example: One of...more
Hanna
When I first caught a glimpse of the cover underneath the wrapping paper, my heart sank. I had been hoping for the second installment in the Game of Thrones series and instead my mother had gotten me this fat book that looked as dense as could be. But I couldn't been more wrong. Edward Rutherfurd's sprawling novel takes us on the journey of a lifetime. From the roman invasion on the Thames to a present day archeologist, "London" spans over 2000 years. It follows the generations of a couple famil...more
Graceann
Dec 31, 2009 Graceann rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody
Imagine digging into a lovely long chapter and being introduced to characters that are terribly interesting. Imagine growing to care about those characters and wanting to know what would happen next in their lives. Then imagine getting to the next chapter and finding out that it's 200 years later, the characters you fell in love with are long gone and some strangers, several generations down the line, are offered. You sigh, you settle in to get to know these people, and find yourself finally get...more
Rick
History does not automatically come alive for me. I stand in a museum surrounded by old objects and what I see are old objects, not hints of the lives that others from an earlier time have led. Rutherfurd's book brings that history alive. By weaving fictional life stories into the tapestry of history, all of a sudden the history comes to life and I see the events of history flow by on a river of time in a way I never had before.

Having visited London briefly on several occasions, it was great fu...more
Rosalie
Whew! That was long! I'm not sure I'd read such a long book again soon. Having said that, it was REALLY interesting. Each era is like a short story that hinges upon the previous era's ancestors. Many have criticized the lack of character and plot development, but I suppose I didn't have huge expectations in that area. To me, it was more like snippets of history with some story and characters woven in to make it more interesting, almost like a written tableau. I loved the huge overarching histori...more
Lianne
London is the third novel I've read by Edward Rutherfurd. Once again I found his handling of the scope and history of a city very epic and fleshed out. It was interesting to read and watch as London grew from a settlement into the city we know today. The families that the reader follows over the course of some 2 000 years of history are very much involved and affected by the realities of their time period.

Some stories and chapters interested me more than others and I found the jump between the...more
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Francis Edward Wintle, best known under his pen name Edward Rutherfurd, was born in the cathedral city of Salisbury. Educated locally, and at the universities of Cambridge, and Stanford, California, he worked in political research, bookselling and publishing. After numerous attempts to write books and plays, he finally abandoned his career in the book trade in 1983, and returned to his childhood h...more
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