Spoken Word

<i>London: the biography</i> by Peter Ackroyd, Read by Simon Callow (Random House, c15hrs, each &pound;9.99, box set, &pound;40)
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The Independent Culture

If you are one of the many Londoners who absent themselves from rush-hour commuting by plugging a walkman into their ears, then you could have no better companion on your journey to work than Peter Ackroyd's biography of London. The long abridgement is divided into five parts - Foundations, Trade and Enterprise, Districts and Suburbs, Street Life and People and Fire and Pestilence. You can buy one as a taster, or go for the Collected Edition of all five. This is history as journey, both physical and temporal. It doesn't pretend to be comprehensive; what Ackroyd is aiming for is to shake up our placid pictures of the past, to restore forgotten people and places, but above all to convey London's spirit and resilience. Roman London will rise before you as you hear of hoards hidden under London Wall; bustling medieval shops and the macabre boiled heads of traitors will overlie the modern lines of London Bridge. It is no mean feat to carry the listener along without the taut thread of a gripping narrative, but

If you are one of the many Londoners who absent themselves from rush-hour commuting by plugging a walkman into their ears, then you could have no better companion on your journey to work than Peter Ackroyd's biography of London. The long abridgement is divided into five parts - Foundations, Trade and Enterprise, Districts and Suburbs, Street Life and People and Fire and Pestilence. You can buy one as a taster, or go for the Collected Edition of all five. This is history as journey, both physical and temporal. It doesn't pretend to be comprehensive; what Ackroyd is aiming for is to shake up our placid pictures of the past, to restore forgotten people and places, but above all to convey London's spirit and resilience. Roman London will rise before you as you hear of hoards hidden under London Wall; bustling medieval shops and the macabre boiled heads of traitors will overlie the modern lines of London Bridge. It is no mean feat to carry the listener along without the taut thread of a gripping narrative, but the combination of Ackroyd's provocative linkages and Simon Callow's projection make this one of the best audiobooks of the year.

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