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Thames: Sacred River

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  549 ratings  ·  70 reviews
Just as Peter Ackroyd's bestselling London is the biography of the city, Thames: Sacred River is the biography of the river, from sea to source. Exploring its history from prehistoric times to the present day, the reader is drawn into an extraordinary world, learning about the fishes that swim in the river and the boats that ply its surface; about floods and tides; hauntin ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published August 7th 2008 by Vintage (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,837)
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Early in Thames: The Biography the first post-Roman bridge is noted at being at York in the eighth century; we know this from church records stating that a witch was thrown from such and drowned. So, okay, what is the significance of this? We don't know, the events is passed over and the facts and images keep flowing. Employing a riparian model, Peter Ackroyd allows the jetsam and debris of history to be washed and buried in the mud immemorial. Thames proceeds thematically, but each sections is ...more
Thames: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd purports to offer a sister volume to the highly successful London: The Biography. To a point it succeeds, but in general the feeling of pastiche dominates to such an extent that the idea of biography soon dissolves into a scrapbook.

The book presents an interesting journey and many fascinating encounters. But it also regularly conveys a sense of the incomplete, sometimes that of a jumbled ragbag of associations that still needs the application of work-heat a
I wish I knew what went wrong with this book. I thought it would be one that I would really enjoy, the kind of quirky history that focuses on one element, and then ties everything together around that element. Also, I am a huge fan of Peter Ackroyd. He is an elegant and entertaining writer. Beginning with fiction (Chatterton, Hawksmoor, Milton in America, etc.) and then extending into history and biography (Dickens, Pound, Chaucer, London the City...) he has created a bookshelf full of well writ ...more
Pete daPixie
Peter Ackroyd's 'Thames-Sacred River' published 2007, is a companion volume to his very much celebrated 'London:The Biography' from 2000. More than just a good read, Ackroyd has produced a wonderful and evocative masterpiece for 'Old Father Thames'. The writing is poetic, scholarly, fact packed and flows as gracefully as the river itself.
Typical of this authors work, here is a fully comprehensive biography of this 215 mile long river from Thames Head to the sea. It's history is excavated from Pa
A majestic work, brilliantly researched, succinctly chronicled and superbly written, 'Thames: Sacred River' enhances Peter Ackroyd's glowing reputation as an excellent writer of historical works.

Only 215 miles in length, the Thames has as much history about it as almost any river in the world and the author takes us back to neolithic times and then meanders through time with great detail through to the modern day Canary Wharf and industrial landscapes around the mouth of the river.

History, legen
When Ackroyd tackles people, his biographies are utterly engrossing. Wider topics (river, cities) tend to exacerbate his tendency to meander with little thought to relevance or coherence. This book also suffers from his tendency to elevate anything British beyond all reason.
Ackroyd's The Thames is a love poem to the river. Instead of a linear history, which undoubtably would've made the book dull, Ackroyd sections the chapters by theme; there is a chapter on the river and death, on fishing, on wildlife and so on. This structure makes the book far more easy and interesting to read.

Ackroyd tells stories about the river, for instance a swimming race between a man and a dog; or about the wreck of the Princess Alice and the connection one of the survivors has to Jack t
Sarah Beaudoin
I think it is difficult to stand on the bank of the Thames and not feel what a presence it is. I have spent hours walking along it and sitting on its shore, and I am always struck by how much history has occurred within reach of those waters.

Peter Ackroyd's The Thames: Sacred River does a terrific job capturing that immense history. Following the same format he used in his earlier biography of London, Ackroyd examines the Thames from all angles: geological, cultural, historical, and more. The re
Kent Hayden
More than you'd ever need to know about the gods and fairies and folklore surrounding the Thames. I usually enjoy Ackroyd (His 'London' is great!) but this I couldn't get into.
Benjamin A'Lee
Good in places, but unfocussed. Marred by Ackroyd's seemingly mystical ideas about the Thames, and how it has had some psychic influence over the people living nearby across the millennia. For Ackroyd it seems as though the Thames itself is some sort of deity, and this book is not so much a history of the human activity in and around the Thames as a history of the deity; people come second. Even when he's not going quite so far, he seems convinced that the Thames is unique and that even when it ...more
This book is rambling and fragmented and sometimes repetitive (like when Ackroyd mentions the 5000-year-old yews at Southwark on one page … and then mentions them again on the next page, without a difference of context or the addition of any new information), but it’s full of interesting facts and historical tidbits and images.

There are some great lists or list-like sections, too, which always make me happy: there’s a whole paragraph that lists the fourteen main tributaries of the Thames, follo
Peter Ackroyd's Thames is a delight. Ackroyd likely could write a huge book about a paper clip and make it interesting.
He begins with describing the Thames and its connection with history as it winds through villages on its banks. He writes of its origin, size and currents and even this rather mundane information is interesting.

The influence of the Thames in defining London is examined. The river influences poets, artists and writers. It attracts pageants for kings and scavengers in rude smal
Thames: The Biography
by Peter Ackroyd

I ducked into a bookshop in Kings Cross Underground to get Peter Ackroyd's marvellous book London: The Biography. I was there to check out every square on the British Monopoly board and I wanted to get my research right.

The book was a superb resource. I buried my nose into it and didn't come up for a long while. Perhaps the highlight was reading about London Stone and then seeing the actual relic of the ancient city right there on Cannon Street.

So when I
I'd had this book in my list for quite some time and only recently got around to snagging a copy to read. Sometimes, when I've been meaning to read a book and it's been languishing a while, I can start to dread reading it -- almost like it's a chore. But then I start reading it and I find that interest that brought me to it in the first place, whether that was sparked by a review or a fellow reader. This is one of those cases.

What's not to like about a book that contains a chapter which begins,
Biographies rightfully belong to human while histories belong to things, places, events and people of the past. Ackroyd’s use of “biography” in this, and his previous book on London, suggests that he is asking us to consider both the city and the Thames as living entities with a past, present and future identity. This makes sense in some ways. Cities and rivers do have character (bestowed upon them by us) and their characters are subject to change and decay over time. Some even die. And, like hu ...more
It's hard not to respect this book. Peter Ackroyd has included an amazing amount of detail and political history is blended with cultural and anthropological references.

But in general it's just too much information, with numerous very similar examples used to bolster each point made. Poetry is quoted on almost every page (or at least it feels that way after you finish the book, but none of it was moving, and the quotes are mostly snippets. They serve, perhaps, more to glorify the author than en
The version of the book I read is subtitled "The Biography", and it is certainly an apt characterization of the book. After finishing Ackroyd's journey through all facets of the river's history, significance, and even personality, you get the feeling that you know the Thames.

Although the prehistory of the river comes early and some of the more modern developments come later in the book, I would not say that it is organized chronologically. Its divisions are thematic: river as transport, the art
John Hood
Bound Miami SunPost January 28, 2010 (p17)

If the River was History

Navigating The Thames

John Hood

Okay, the Nile might lead us back to Ancient Egypt, the Yangtze might flow for the future, and the Mississippi will always have Huck and Jim. But of all the world’s great rivers, none has perhaps played as important part in all world events as the River Thames. Forget the fact that it’s only 215 miles long (and not even the longest river in the United Kingdom).
Alex Telander
British author Peter Ackroyd—of London: the Biography, Shakespeare: the Biography, and numerous other works—presents the most comprehensive biography ever written on the most renowned river of all time. After reading this book, it can be said that you will know all there is to know about the river Thames. Beginning with its geology and topography, Ackroyd takes you on a full tour from wellspring to its draining into the English channel, filling your head with facts and details you’d never really ...more
I wanted to love this as I do the Thames itself, but Ackroyd jumps around and belabours his analogies to the point that it's hard to digest in more than bite sizes. Worth a look for those who love London and it's environs - and who have a connection with this artery of commerce, history and adventure that meanders through the heart of the metropolis - but be warned it will be a trip against the tide for the most part.
This book is an exhaustive history of the Thames, with a lot more information than you could probably possibly ever want. One very good feature is the very last chapter, "An Alternative Topography" which walks you from the source to the mouth, via the etymology of the names of towns along the river's edge- 254 miles in 42 pages. Which is of course an unusual feature to find in any book, but in this case quite welcome.
Jul 11, 2008 Spiros rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those in the mood for riverine explorations
Shelves: arc, londoncalling
Peter Ackroyd, Roger Angell, and Kevin Starr are my favorite non-fiction writers: all three are devoted amateurs, in the true sense of the word, being enamored of their respective subjects, and being inordinately skilled at conveying their fascination to us, the reader.
This work forms the last part of a triptych, along with LONDON: THE BIOGRAPHY and ALBION, which explore, in exhaustive detail and much digression, the streams of English literary and artistic genius. As befits a riparian narrative
Rachel Hawes
Finally finished this one after reading it for most of the year. Have read a chapter a night, because there's just so much information to take in.

Ackroyd takes the reader on a long meander along London's river from source to Sea, taking in anecdotes, historical fact, fiction art, life and death along the way. Beautifully written and fantastically researched as with all his books and probably best read as a companion guide to Ackroyd's earlier bestseller "London: the Biography".

The beauty of th
Amy Durreson
A wonderful meditation on the Thames which meanders through its history and landscape with frequent reference to the writers and artists who have tried to capture the river. It's not a book for the factual historian, as some of Ackroyd's analogies are decidedly dodgy (he has a tendency to pluck some belief about rivers from some distant culture and then state that it almost certainly applies to the Thames as well). What makes it a pure joy, though, is his love of the river and the way he express ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
I really enjoyed this book. I meandered around the river, acquiring new knowledge and new perspectives and thoroughly enjoyed the prose.

The book is not perfect: I think some judicious editing would have been useful. In one part, it reads as though Claudius was in Briatin only a decade or so after Julius Caesar whereas by my rough estimation it must have been almost 90 years later.

Yes, if I could have given the book 4.5 stars I would have done so. But somehow, less than 5 stars seemed churlish fo
The Thames has been a boundary, 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. Archaeologists have evidence that the river has been important for transport and commerce as early as the Neolithic Age. In addition to its historical significance, the river has figured prominently in art, literature, and painting and is an essential element of the English identity and imagination. Although at times I felt it was a little too ...more
Fascinating and thorough look at the significance of this river to the English people. Unfortunately, it doesn't 'flow' well and is a bit difficult to read.
As one comes to expect from Peter Ackroyd, a mammoth feat of research
and scholarship. The predictably excellent London chapters are accompanied by a thematic treatment of the whole length of the river, including very strong descriptions of the byways of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Ackroyd excels in describing the geology and zoology of the Thames, proving himself to have an extra dimension and more than just a historian. Not shy of the macabre, the book might benefit from the addition of more con
Kirk Lowery
I enjoyed the book because the subject was new to me. The author doesn't know if he is writing a history, a travel book, or a prose poem. He fails at the latter and it blights his history and travelogue. I get really tired of his attempts to link Thames lore to classical mythology, except when he's talking about the Romans, of course. The pictures and photos are excellent. There's a case to be made that the Thames and Britain are closely linked in their history, that without the Thames, British ...more
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age
More about Peter Ackroyd...
London: The Biography The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling Hawksmoor London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets Shakespeare: The Biography

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