Curiocity: In Pursuit of London
by Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose
Review by Don Brown
This book can be ordered from John Sandoe Books
This is a fantastic - in all sense of the word - book about London, one that reimagines the 'guidebook' in the same way that Peter Ackroyd's London: the Biography
reinvented historical writing about the capital. And just as Ackroyd set a benchmark, every new guide to London will now be viewed with reference to Curiocity
Like London it seems like a huge, sprawling mass to begin with, but get closer and you'll see it is organised into 26 chapters - illustrated with hand drawn maps - that explore a different aspect of the city, from Atlas
, by way of Dust
And like London the book has wonderful little back alleys and secret routes that are waiting to be discovered, entertaining dead ends that you will probably never find again, hidden secrets in its main thoroughfares, and a lifetime of stories and experiences (many of which are probably true).
At random: page 151 - Borribles
, children who never grew up and never went home, living in tribes in central London; page 261 - the Rookeries of London, Charles Booth's poverty maps, "cardboard city" and "beds in sheds"; page 356 - a list of occult shops; page 420 - time capsules and time machines, from the Blue Peter remains under the Millennium Dome, to the Tardis outside Earls Court station.
is a practical guide as well, with themed tours across the city, whether that's exploring Pinter's Hackney, capturing the elements or circumnavigating the Thames Archipelago.
The book grew out of the authors' Curiocity
Magazine, eight maps that each brought an unexpected perspective on its theme. This is much expanded in the 450 pages of the book, with 14 different artists including Stanley Wood, Chris Riddell, Steven Appleby and Isabel Greenberg, and written contributions from authors as diverse as Monica Ali, Phillip Pullman, Marina Warner and Sukhdev Sandhu.
However well you think you know London, you will discover something new on virtually every page, and the things you know well will be seen completely differently. Highly recommended.
In fact we like
Curiocity so much that we invited one of the authors to come and talk to the Society about it on 2 December. Henry Eliot will share some of the delights of the book, and we will then have drinks, mince pies and other Christmas treats in what's guaranteed to be an entertaining evening. Full details can be found here.