London (Amazing and Extraordinary Facts) by Stephen Halliday

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London (Amazing and Extraordinary Facts) by Stephen Halliday

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Category: Trivia
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Just a great book, that will delight people who think they know the city, and provide for many a present to distant friends and relatives.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Rydon Publishing
ISBN: 9781910821022

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What makes a city? Is it the materials, such as the very London Stone itself, of mythological repute, that has moved around several times, and now forms part of a WH Smith's branch? (This has nothing, of course, on Temple Bar, which has also been known to walk.) Is it the people – the butchers (Jack the Ripper), the bakers (or whoever set fire to the entire city from Pudding Lane) and the candlestick makers? Is it the infrastructure, from the Underground, whose one-time boss got a medal from Stalin for his success, to the London Bridge itself, that in its own wanderlust means it's highly unlikely the Thames will freeze again? However you define a city, London certainly has a lot going for it as regards weird and wonderful, and the trivial yet fascinating. And, luckily for us, so has this book.

Seeing as the same author also provided this series of bijou hardbacks best sampled in short spells in a cold throne room with its London Underground entry there certainly is quite an unfortunate overlap at times, but like I say so many aspects make up a city that it would be impossible to do a book like this that doesn't feature it. And there is a gamut of riches here, meaning that your next visit to the loo (or wherever you choose to keep your copy) will immediately spring forth a different subject entirely. Here's Prince Charles' belle inheriting courtesy of the world's longest known will. Here are where people send requests to fictional detectives, and invite people to buildings that are a frontage and nothing else whatsoever. Here is proof that Piccadilly Circus got its name from an unusual source, and that its statue is not that of Eros (a mistake, then, promulgated by the other book of Halliday's).

Take the book out of the smallest room and you might find yourself distracted by searching for images online of that to which it refers, but on the whole the illustrations are fine, and the small print allows for a lot of valuable information (OK, trivia – but then one man's meat is another man's jellied eel) to come across perfectly well. Halliday's writing, especially when he tempers his previously-seen habit of little box-outs and bonus trivia scattered across the page, is superb, his knowledge almost equal to The Knowledge, and the results will be most welcome to anyone who knows, or thinks they know, or thinks they should know, this city.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

A different approach to similar information can be had with I Never Knew That About the River Thames by Christopher Winn and London Bridge in America: The Tall Story of a Transatlantic Crossing by Travis Elborough is probably one of the most extraordinary facts.

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Buy London (Amazing and Extraordinary Facts) by Stephen Halliday at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy London (Amazing and Extraordinary Facts) by Stephen Halliday at


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