Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thames: The Biography

Thanks to Bonnie and Citizen Reader, I read Thames: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. It had been on my big list of many titles that I would like to read someday, but with their recommendations, I moved it to the front of the queue. Because it is a big book and I was busy with my other projects, I spent a month reading it, which may have been a blessing. It is a great book to read slowly, a little at a time.

If you have not seen it, Thames: The Biography has 441 pages of actual narrative divided into many chapter, some as small as six pages. Each of the 45 chapters is an essay about some aspect of the history of the great English River around which many of the most important events in British history have occurred. Ackroyd must love the river immensely to put so much effort and thought into this fascinating book. Reading it makes me want to return to England badly.

Thames: The Biography is truly mostly about the river and its life. Ackroyd seems to have thought of every topic historical, cultural, religious, environmental, political, and literary. Readers who have narrower interests could well chose only the chapters that appeal to them and still enjoy a full reading experience. The book is almost an encyclopedia, but do not guess that it is dry and academic. I can imagine Ackroyd telling me about his river in the comfort of a den with a blazing fire and hours to spend in good conversation.

I loved some of the place names, especially Horseferry Place, Long Wittenham, Little Wittenham, Bablock Hythe, Iffley, Twwickenham, and Isle of Dogs.

While reading, I often visualized scenes that I have seen in movies, in BBC programs, or in my own travels. When Little Dorret went to the riverside in the recent Masterpiece Theater production by the same name, I noticed everything I could about the sand, the tide marks, and who was doing what by the water. Thames: The Biography is a book that will wake you up to the world around you. And you will wish it was the Thames.

Ackroyd, Peter. Thames: The Biography. Doubleday, 2007. ISBN 9780385526234

1 comment:

Citizen Reader said...

So glad you liked it! I want to re-read it again right now!