Bruce's Reviews > Thames: The Biography

Thames by Peter Ackroyd
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's review
Jan 14, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: history, 2009-reading
Read in January, 2009

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 written, entertaining and informative work.

But somehow, he seems to have lost himself in this one. This book feels as though he spent ten years doing research, and filling out thousands of little note cards, then organized them together by topic and period, and then just dumped the damn things into his word processor. The sense one gets is of list after list after list, ad infinitum; followed by little story after little story, with no unifying theme at all. Ironically, his comment on John Leland's work Itinerary, describes his own book perfectly. "His was an anecdotal and perambulatory style, a collection of notes rather than a coherent narrative."
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05/31 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Kaminwest (new)

Kaminwest I'm signed up. Your picture came up! How private is this?


Julie Stout i absolutely agree with your review. as a natural history, Thames is painful to read. It has the feel of an undergraduate term paper written under duress.

Paul Rather sadly I have to agree with you. The John Leland quote really stood out when I read it as a perfect description of Thames' flaws.

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