Book Review: The London Compendium by Ed Glinert

London is certainly one of the most “colourful” cities in the world, and one of the oldest. It owes its colour to both its rich past and present. Weighing in on that colourful past and present is Ed Glinert, a Londoner “who has walked the city from Limehouse to Lambeth, Whitehall to Whitechapel, unravelling its mysteries along the way”.

The London Compendium: A street-by-street exploration of the hidden metropolis is a thrilling companion to anyone – whether you are travelling to London, have settled in London, or have never visited the city yet have an interest in its rich history.

Ed Glinert provides a real account of London – not the stuff of educational textbook’s focused on the Roman rule of “Londonium” thankfully, but the many streets you have walked down, passed through, areas that you have worked in, or been on numerous nights out in.

For someone who knows London pretty well and is familiar with the many streets that Ed Glinert writes about, this book was certainly hard to put down. That said, it’s not exactly a book that you read from beginning to end – but rather use as a reference. Born and raised in London, I was hard pushed to find many places in the book that I myself had not visited at some point in my lifetime which made the book ever so intriguing and engaging. Given this I was able to read the book in an intuitive order rather than linearly, and so trawling through the postcodes that Ed Glinert writes about in an order of interest to my inner being. And that’s what’s also great about The London Compendium: A street-by-street exploration of the hidden metropolis is that you can use the book to find that in the city and those stories which most resonate with you.

Wandering around London, it can be easy to pick-up on the energetic imprints of the city. In The London Compendium: A street-by-street exploration of the hidden metropolis, Ed Glinert provides an explanation of those energies through time – so essentially the whats went down in history to make you feel those energies in those places. The book takes you down well-known streets, as well as the lesser known.

First published in 2004 and updated in 2012, there have been changes in some of the areas of London that Ed Glinert writes about, but the book in its current state gives an inkling of such changes including the gentrification of pockets of London. The book also brings with it an awareness that processes like gentrification is no modern feat to London as it has had its wave of such renovations throughout its history.

The London Compendium: A street-by-street exploration of the hidden metropolis charts both historical information and the recent dynamics of places and spaces across the capital, providing a truthful and insightful account that you are unlikely to find elsewhere. Tales of gentrification, Cold War espionage, East End gangsters and drinking dens, rock stars and iconic venues, Royal Parks, notorious London landlords, immigration, serial killers, and Bloomsbury’s literary past – The London Compendium: A street-by-street exploration of the hidden metropolis highlights the rough and the smooth, and the good, bad and downright nasty of what went down and what’s now going on in England’s enigmatic capital city. This book is a must read for anyone with a connection to London – no matter how slight or huge that connection may be.

The London Compendium: A street-by-street exploration of the hidden metropolis by Ed Glinert is published by Penguin 

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

 

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