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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

London: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd

Genre: Historical

Copyright: 2002

Pages: 1152

Rating: 4.5 crowns

After reading Rutherford's novel about Sarum (Salisbury) I couldn't wait to see what he did with the families in London. I was not disappointed. Starting at the banks of the Thames with the druids right before the Roman conquest of England and stopping on the banks of the Thames in 1997, Rutherfurd paints an absolutely amazing picture of London. He includes several different maps at the beginning which show London in different periods in its history and I found it fascinating to see how the city changed and expanded throughout the years. He also includes, thankfully, a very helpful family tree which really comes in handy when you're trying to keep up with all the families and their entertwining story lines throughout the novel. Of course there is going to be the usual embellishment that you're going to find in any fictional novel but it is mixed so well with history that nothing is going to see really out of place (or time).
The novel is about several families that live in London - the Duckets and Doggets (branches of the same family), the Bulls, the Silversleeves (who seem to come across as the "villains" throughout the different generations), the Barnikels (descended from Vikings), the Carpenters, the Flemings, the Merediths (who originally came to England with the first Tudor king), and the Pennys. Thankfully all seven of these families do not show up in each chapter (which are divided pretty much according to a major event in each historical period [Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Norman Conquest, etc]) so you will only have to keep up with around three to four of the families per time period. It is really fascinating to follow these families and their relationships with each other. It really shows us how families in these distant days would pass on their feuds and friendships down through the generations. We see our fictional families deal with such momentous events such as the coming of Julius Caesar, the Norman Conquest and the building of the Tower of London, the Black Death, the Tudor dynasty and the rise of the playhouses, the fire of London, the Industrial Revolution, and World War II. As in Sarum, Rutherfurd does have his fictional characters rubbing elbows with historical figures and sometimes, of course unknowingly, having an effect on history itself. It was easy to sympathize with many of the characters and equally as easy to despise others; they are given such wonderful and unique personalities. I loved seeing how each character and family changed and evolved based on the events surrounding them. It was equally amazing to see how some things didn't change in the families over time. The city itself is described in great detail and I found it very easy to picture what it looked like in its different periods of development. There is marvelous writing through out the novel describing every day life in London which really makes it come alive and really helps a modern reader get a better idea of what life was like for people in these harsh times. There is even some wonderful humor (I laughed out loud when little Osric got his "revenge" on Ralph Silversleeves). The middle chapters seemed to move along at a much faster pace but that is to be expected considering the very eventful periods it covers (the Wars of the Roses, the Tudors, the Civil War, etc). It amazed me how Rutherfurd was able to tie all the families and events together throughout 2000 years of history (see if you catch how he ties together a Roman coin forger and an archaeologist in the book's last chapter). Now that I am much more familiar with many of the periods and events covered here I will probably go back and re-read it. This is a long novel (prepare yourself for some flipping back and forth between your reading and the maps and family tree at the front) and some parts will drag a bit but I do not think you'll be disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure through London's history.






You can visit Robin at The Lady Gwyn's Kingdom

12 comments:

Ladybug said...

This sounds like a good historical fiction! I would love to know more about the history of London. Thank you for the lovely review.

Misfit said...

I read this a few years ago, as well as The Forest and enjoyed them both and do help you get a grounding on England's history. That said, it's best to spread his novels out and not read one after the other or you'll burn out real quick.

Connie said...

OMG, I have to have this! How have I not read this before?

Great, great review! Thanks!!

Robinbird said...

Connie and Ladybug ~ At some point read Sarum as well. It is the same type of novel but based on families in Salisbury.

Misfit ~ I tried The Forest but couldn't quite get into it like his other two. I'll have to try it again.

Marg said...

This is one of those authors that I will get to one day! Same with Frank Delaney.

sue14625 said...

so nice to see a new book i read Sarum and The Forest and would love to ad dthe is to mt shelved ty

Jenny Girl said...

Whew! I don't know who to congratulate first: you for reading this huge book and writing such a concise review or the author for keeping everything straight.
Great job and thanks for bringing an interesting book to my attention.

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

I loved this book! It still remains one of my favorite historical novels ever! I am in the process of reading Sarum (slowly). I put it down several months ago because school got a little hectic, but I will finish it. I love Rutherford's writing!
Great review. =O)

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Very intrigued by this one, am going to read it.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Great review! I read it when it came out some years ago and I loved it! (although I read the French translation and would really love to read it in English now) I got "New York" recently and I can't wait to get into it, but it's huge, too, and not easy to carry around.

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

Wow, it sounds fantastic! This one is definitely going on my TBR pile :)

Elena said...

Thanks for the reminder of this one. I read it years ago, but should re-read it some time in the future soon.