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London - Edward Rutherfurd

Updated on February 14, 2010

Book review - London by Edward Rutherfurd

‘By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show”

Samuel Johnson

What else can this city possibly reveal! This massive hit tells all.

Who is the author?

Edward Rutherfurd was born in 1948 and raised in Salisbury, England. Educated there in his early years, he later went on to university in Cambridge and Stanford California.

He worked in publishing, book selling and had some early attempts at writing. He finally began to focus as an author and returned to the place of his birth to write his first best seller - Sarum. Four years in the making, it was published in 1987 and established Edward Rutherfurd as a true craftsman of descriptive historical fiction.

He has spent most of his life living between Europe and New York. He is a Patron of the National Theatre of Ireland and is active in cathedral and civic life in Salisbury, his beloved birthplace; so much so that in 2005 one of the streets leading from its market place was named Rutherfurd Walk in honour of their famous and talented son.

What’s the story?

London is a great sprawling city, full of life, intrigue wealth, pleasure and pain. The Thames is its life blood.

London the novel is a great sprawling story, which captures the essence of the city from its beginnings as a primitive settlement on the banks of the river, before the Romans arrived on English shores, through to development of the docklands today.

Spanning two millennia, it follows the fortunes of families whose lives are inextricably linked to the river and the tide of fortunes and failings it brings.

Historical fact is the core of the book; Rutherfurd takes us through London and its development into the business capital of the world. The places, street names events – all will be familiar to those who know London. To those that don’t it is a wonderful introduction to the city’s history.

It shows that London has always been the diverse mix of peoples and cultures which makes it one of the most exciting cities in the world.

My experience of the book

I first read this epic when I began working in London in 1998. I wanted to get to know the city and came across the book one day in a station bookshop.

800 pages - quite a challenge, but it held my attention so well.

I spent the next few days locked into those 800 pages. Enthralled, captivated, excited, and entertained; all of these emotions came from Rutherfurd’s characters, coupled with the detailed historical knowledge, they are woven by his mastery into a magical fabric which brought the city alive.

The families we are introduced to – the Doggets and Duckets – paupers and aristocrats respectively. The Saxon Bulls and Carpenters, Viking Barnikels; the arrival of the Norman Silversleeves; Flemings from Flanders, the Merediths from Wales; the Protestant Penny family, Huguenots from France, and the Scottish Forsyths.

Rutherfurd takes you into their lives and walks their journey with them through this amazing city as it grew and developed over the centuries. Intrigue, pain, joy; fortunes won and lost. You cannot help but to feel their very presence.

A city that I thought I knew took on a whole new dimension!

What is London - the city?

The story shows that the city’s history has always been that of a centre for immigrants to the country.

London's 7.5 million residents account for 12.5 per cent of the UK population (1)

85 per cent of Londoners say that their local area is a place where people of different backgrounds get on well together (2)

London's economy generated $452 billion in 2005 and is predicted to rise to $708 billion by 2020, making London the fourth largest city economy in the world (behind Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles) (3)

(1) Focus on London 2007, table 1.2 ONS/GLA

(2) London Councils' survey of Londoners 2007/08

(3) PWC - global city forecasts 2007

London today
London today

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    • WestOcean profile image

      WestOcean 7 years ago from Great Britain

      Good review of a fine book.

    • dragonbear profile image
      Author

      dragonbear 7 years ago from Essex UK

      Thanks for the welcome Immartin; Rutherfurd is a master of his craft indeed, his whole series is massive and great reading.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      I read this novel several years ago, and like you, I loved it. Having visited London on many occasions I found it thrilling to "live" the history in this wonderfully written book. And you are right; those 800+ pages zipped by leaving me wanting more. (Sarum was also an excellent read) Welcome to hubpages.