This entertaining volume provides a concise history of one of the world’s premiere cities. Acclaimed author A.N. Wilson starts at the beginning, when London was founded by the Romans, and continues to contemporary times, hitting all the historical highlights along the way. London is the perfect starter book for anyone wishing to understand this great city a little better, and even seasoned London fans will find new information here.
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Messy and ambivalent.
When the first chapter of a book describes its subject as an ‘ersatzDisneyland’ (twice) and “Ugly, ugly, ugly.” you know the author has an attitude problem. Especially when, in the last chapter, he’s waxing all rhapsodic about the same things. Make up your mind man.
Discussing the warts of a city history is fine, but I found this book to be a bit sloppy and fragmented. One is left with a distinctly dreary view of the city and the last few chapters on postwar London could literally be about any large Western city during the same time period, New York, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, etc.
I give it an average rating only because it does have of interesting little facts and stories, but most of them are unflattering to the point of self-loathing and out of context, so that unless you already know a lot of English history, it won’t mean much to you.
Terrible book for newcomers to London history or people planning a visit. The only thing the book showcases really well is that old stereotype of the English as being self-hating and defeating people who must match every compliment with at least two insults.