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(London #2)

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  222 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Downriver is a brilliant London novel by its foremost chronicler, Iain Sinclair.


The Thames runs through Downriver like an open wound, draining the pain and filth of London and its mercurial inhabitants. Commissioned to document the shifting embankments of industry and rampant property speculation, a film cre
Paperback, 544 pages
Published April 29th 2004 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published January 1st 1991)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  222 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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Vit Babenco
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“What does Eliot say? ‘We are born with the dead: See, they return, and bring us with them. The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew tree Are of equal duration.’ Everything we say parrots words that have already been spoken. We speak in quotations.”
Downriver is evenly the book of the dead and the book of the living. It is a surrealistic Gothic tale of the present and the past where sinking of Princess Alice, Jack the Ripper and Rodinsky’s abandoned room are the recurring nightmares.
Aug 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Downriver—Or, The Vessels of Wrath sports a smoky frontispiece of a dozen curious black-and-white photographs: one each of the twelve is subsequently attached to the opening page of the twelve narrative tales that subdivide the book. These photos are of various locales in and around the Congo River at the turn of the previous century: native blacks sport Western apparel; West European merchant travelers take turns going native; modernity and tribal primitivism warily circle each other, releasing ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Has it really been 3 whole weeks since I finished this? I still haven't returned it to the library, and every time I see its pleasing turquoise spine on the bookcase, I feel a fondness for it. It's a maddening species of novel-like thing, as the other reviews attest, gorgeously lyrical and so funny. Unexpectedly so.

There are books that annoy you with their dense allusions to people and places you've never heard of. Not this one, thick as it is. Its page count is even longer if you count all the
Insane, bizarre, flowing nightmare of book. Goes from bizarre reporting to freak-out Blakeian visions as it documents London and its people. The past, future, and the present flow freely into one another as Sinclair delivers his freak dream logic in some of the most visceral and strange prose being written today. Fans of Burroughs, Moorcock, and Angela Carter(find her review of it also) need to find this exasperating but brilliant book.
David M
8/17/19 - Finished this book earlier this year, and then, to be perfectly honest, tried selling my copy at Green Apple for store credit. They wouldn't take it, however, as my copy turned out to be in too shabby a condition for them to shelve even in their Used section. I was slightly disappointed at the time, but keeping this book around has turned into a great boon to my reading life this year...

I would characterize Downriver as a pretty decent book to read from cover to cover, but a really stu
Cath Murphy
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This isn't a story, it's a journey. The river is the Thames and the journey is through the psyche of the city the river bisects. What does the Thames mean to London? If you had to describe that meaning through fictional characters, who would they be and what would they do?

Sinclair is a psychogeographer - he's interested in how cities affect the minds of the people who live in them. Downriver is his attempt to capture the essence of London wharf-life. It's surrealist, captivating, inspiring, deep
Mark Joyce
Oct 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
Prose poetry, and not in a good way. I couldn’t make head nor bleedin’ tail of it, as one of Sinclair’s own characters might say. The majority of reviewers seem to think Downriver is some sort of stylistic tour de force, so maybe it simply went over my head. Either way, there was nothing in the first hundred pages or so that gave me the slightest inclination to keep reading and I quickly abandoned it to flee back into the comforting arms of John le Carré. ...more
Rachel Stevenson
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
This is not a novel so much as a fever dream. There is no plot or character development. Apart from an aborted river journey that's part Three Men In A Boat, part Heart Of Darkness, it’s not even about the Thames; it starts off in Tilbury but soon turns into a ramble through Ian Sinclair’s obsessions: Hackney, David Rodinsky, railing against institutions (this time the BBC rather than Hackney Council), mental asylums, ambitious outsiders, forgotten (and eccentric) writers, the Whitechapel murder ...more
On the face of it, Sinclair's fiction doesn't seem too different from his nonfiction -- there's the same obsession with the gritty details of London, with every broken pub window, every spray of political graffiti, every needle in an alley mattering. And likewise there's this almost too-clever use of words, a sense of verbal mastery and an ability to sum up every one of these aforementioned gritty details with a witty, smirking turn of phrase. So, much as I adored Sinclair's Lights Out for the T ...more
Laurence Thompson
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
With a prose style equal to anyone alive and a modern sensibility, it's tempting to call Iain Sinclair the William Faulker of London with this book. But, considering his analytical mind which is also capable of mystic universalism, alongside the best deconstructive and reconstructive tendencies of the Situationists, it's best just to call him Iain Sinclair. ...more
Mar 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Twelve stories which are connected, Sinclair shows his knowledge of Londan. Areas are mentioned like Tilbury, Greenwich, Isle of Dogs and the Isle of Sheppey.
There's lots of weird and wonderful characters, but sometimes the stories seem to come straight out of left field, do have yo concentrate on what's happening.
Aug 31, 2008 rated it did not like it
I couldn't get on with this at all. It's very rare that I give up on a book but I could only get halfway through this. Some of the interwoven stories were just about to break out then we'd fly off somewhere else and I'd lose the thread. Possibly just a bit too bonkers for me. ...more
I skim read this in order to get all the throwaway comments in which Iain Sinclair displays his deep knowledge of east central and riverine East London. Sometimes with Sinclair the throwaway bits are more interesting than the plot..
Oct 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This was a very funny and at times slightly bonkers book about London,Tilbury and many familiar places inbetween. The usual mix of mad characters and Sinclair himself make for an absorbing read.
Andrew Thompson
Mar 09, 2007 rated it it was ok
Dense, allusive work from Sinclair. Not an altogether successful novel, but passionate. I found you have to read the majority of his sentences twice. Hence why it only got two stars.
Sep 13, 2014 added it
Shelves: fiction
Not entirely pleasant, or even sensible, but frequently brilliant.
Feb 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Urban criticism in novel form. dense, funny, a little too non-linear even for my taste.
Mar 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
You will LOVE this book IF 1. you know everything there is to know about world literature, music, movies, history, and British pop culture, 2. you like books with no plot or memorable characters, and 3. you like vaguely-worded sentences with lots of non sequiturs (think Samuel Becket). I thought I knew a lot about the things I listed in #1, but not nearly enough to catch all of the references. (I also think it's funny that there's a blurb on the back by Peter Ackroyd praising the book, and he al ...more
Alex Clare
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
I tried with this book, I really did but could not take the sheer volume of imagery which, despite the blurb's promises, did not all seem to connect. There were themes here but I couldn't follow them. ...more
Gregoire Jones
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really tried but it's very much like Burroughs at his most difficult to read ...more
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Awe-inspiring use of language. Dense and unwelcoming, but the dark, surreal setting and characters reward the effort.
Mar 04, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody, not even Iain Sinclair's mother
Recommended to Anne by: Peter Ackroyd's book "Thames: The Biography"
I don't know what I have just read. It is not a novel. It is more of a travelogue. The author travels round the East End of London describing his journey. But it is not like any travelogue I have ever read. All the places mentioned exist - I looked them all up on Google. I did enjoy exploring the area with Mr. Sinclair and my knowledge of this part of London has been greatly increased by my research on the side. Most of the events may have happened in some form or another, although I doubt that ...more
Brent Hayward
Aug 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Difficult to get through, but pockets of light in the density. The writing was beautiful. Not too sure what it all added up to. One star knocked off because I don't think Sinclair needed to write 530 pages. Memorable, like an epic nightmare. ...more
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Jimmy Riddle
rated it it was ok
Nov 29, 2020
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Nov 04, 2018
rated it really liked it
Nov 13, 2010
Bob Marshall
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May 05, 2020
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Iain Sinclair is a British writer and film maker. Much of his work is rooted in London, most recently within the influences of psychogeography.

Sinclair's education includes studies at Trinity College, Dublin, where he edited Icarus, the Courtauld Institute of Art (University of London), and the London School of Film Technique (now the London Film School).

His early work was mostly poetry, much of i

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