Yes, somehow, after reading a book about a man tunnelling under Toronto building the waterworks, I managed to choose a book about the world under London. I honestly didn’t plan the correlation. I had bought London Under back in London (in the beautiful Hatchards) and kept planning on reading.
I’ve read some of Peter Ackroyd’s London and really enjoyed it. I loved the social history of the history, but I got bogged down in the sheer length of the book.
I thought that London Under being a smaller book I would be less likely to wonder away from the book, which proved to be true. The book begins with the rivers buried beneath the city and the sewers. This got old pretty fast. It wasn’t until the later chapters about the building of the underground that I found it got interesting. I had no idea that the underground stations weren’t supposed to be used as bomb shelters during the wars. In fact, the authorities discouraged their use until it was obvious that the people would not be discouraged.
Ackroyd seems very preoccupied by ancients myths about the underworld. He paints a gloomy picture of the world under London, rather than being positive about the huge engineering successes at burying much of the infrastructure of the city underground.
I finished this book, but didn’t find it particularly enjoyable. I should know by now that I find social history much more interesting than natural history.
This book felt like a fragment of a larger picture. I’m not sure why Ackroyd would put out such a slim volume after London and Thames.