This week’s book review: London - The Autobiography

This week’s book review: London - The Autobiography


London: The Autobiography

Jon. E. Lewis

Events of the past few weeks have cemented London’s reputation as one of the greatest cities on earth but our first-class hospitality, multi-million pound fireworks and Olympic medal collection shouldn’t overshadow the many hundreds of years of history and people that have seen our capital city reign supreme among its global counterparts since Boudicca sacked it in AD 60.

This isn’t the author’s dissertation-length creation, but a collection of completely original texts, including letters, diary entries and poems, written by real people who lived through these historical events.

For this reason the language is, understandably, archaic and makes for a laborious read in places.

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The entire first half of the book, from Boudicca up to the 1800’s, feels particularly slow given the fashion for comprehensive record-keeping (there’s more than one painfully comprehensive list of household items) and the fact that Roman, Tudor and Shakespearean London are well-visited periods in history and while these original texts offer a more personal angle to events, they reveal nothing new that wouldn’t have been covered in history class.

Our more recent history is brought alive however with expertly selected entries from infamous historical figures documenting life-altering events.

A 19-year-old Queen Victoria walks us through her own coronation, The Sex Pistols tell of their first ever gig in 1975 and eye-witness accounts of Princess Diana’s funeral procession and the 7/7 bombings remind us of the darker side of London’s history.

More of a research text, masquerading as a novel, that should be dipped into at whatever historical period takes your fancy.

Ashley Whittaker