I Never Knew That About the River Thames by Christopher Winn
|I Never Knew That About the River Thames by Christopher Winn|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A fine book about the superlative river, with trivia, history and descriptive details in abundance.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: November 2010|
|Publisher: Ebury Press|
Here are the remains of the building that could be said to have sired two important British royal dynasties. Here is the place of ill-repute, where 'Rule Britannia' was premiered, and which also bizarrely saw a death by cricket ball that inspired the most famous gardens in the world. Here too is the largest lion in the world. To where am I referring? Well the answer is either the Thames valley, or this very book.
I have hardly done more as regards this series of trivia encyclopedias than browse through them briefly, to see if there was a factoid local to me I didn't know. But judging from this brilliant entry to the franchise, I can mark them down as excellent gift books, full of information, and genuinely interesting browsing. Perhaps before now Christopher Winn did not have such a concise, specific area to study - England is of course rather full of interest and history. But with a smaller subject, such as the Thames, he can really get to grips with details, and create an inspiring and entertaining read.
From both sources - contested to this day - to the mouth and beyond, Winn takes us along this most historic of rivers, giving a great and attentive eye to what is on its banks and just beyond - and indeed what has been plonked down over it, and within it. His downstream journey is an obvious format, but really does help the book. To state the obvious, books with so much trivia and detail in them should not be read as I did this one, for reviewing purposes, but whether you take this in chunks on the loo over months or plough through in a couple of evenings, this is very readable.
And due to the attractive geography passed through, the history dealt with, and the ground covered, you can attach a most unlikely adjective to this book of factoids - romantic. Yes, as bizarre as it may seem, several stretches of this book do carry that description over from the topic at hand - at least, until you get to Chiswick it does.
It is almost perfect, as a book, but did leave me with some questions. If Cleopatra's Needle is the second oldest outside artifact in London, what is the oldest??!! I was surprised Winn never once tells us where the River Fleet would enter the Thames. He only refers once to tube tunnels underneath the Thames, and that one didn't start out with that purpose either. The Cutty Sark does not get a proper mention.
But this is a very detailed and educational book, and it is probably as good as you could wish for. The first yacht race in the world? - Charles II, off Deptford. That competes with a beer named after a car, Sandy Shaw, the first lollipop lady - Old Father Thames has collected many utterly diverse friends, and they're all in here.
Winn must have been another, for his knowledge and enthusiasm shine through. This baby encyclopedia has his light editorialising, and some fine descriptions, to prove that the author has researched his subject thoroughly, on foot or boat or both. It's a charming diversion, or an unusual reference book, depending on however you choose to use it. But I would certainly recommend you do.
I must thank the kind publishers at Ebury for my review copy.
This would bear shelving alongside London: The Illustrated History by Cathy Ross and John Clark.
You can read more book reviews or buy I Never Knew That About the River Thames by Christopher Winn at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy I Never Knew That About the River Thames by Christopher Winn at Amazon.com.
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