Bizarre London: Discover the Capital’s Secrets & Surprises offers a quick tour of London’s oddities. David Long fills chapters such as “Gruesome London,” “Ghostly London,” “Eccentric’s London,” and “Illegal London” with concise entries on various strange locations and happenings throughout London’s long history.
Early on, perhaps in the areas where Long himself is less interested, some of the entries are almost too short; a few of “Building London’s” entries are less than a sentence long. Most of the entries after that, however, get more than a paragraph, and the writing style smooths out. Occasionally, Long leaves the reader wanting more, as with an entry on the Kensel Green Cemetery in “Dead London,” which concludes with a list of famous people buried there, including “General James Barry who, on his death in 1865, was discovered to have been a woman.” Say what?
Long has a knack for picking out the unusual and humorous details in his subjects. “Ghostly London” includes an entry on Flask Tavern, which is properly haunted by a young lady. In the neighborhood, however, is a “chicken that is said to haunt nearby Pond Square.” Likewise, in Ceremonial London, one finds that in the John Stow Commemoration, “the Lord Mayor of London replaces a quill in the stone hand of Stowe’s memorial in the church of St Andrew Undershaft in Leadenhall Street.”
The book’s division into sections and subsections makes it ideal for reading in bits and pieces while running errands or otherwise busy. It also tempts one to read some of the entries out loud to those nearby. Recommended for those who are curious about London, who like books full of bits and pieces of interesting bric-a-brac, and who can either resist reading out loud in public places or who don’t mind enlivening a grocery store line with a detail or two about London’s politics, its buried dead, or odd houses.
Bizarre London: Discover the Capital’s Secrets and Surprises is available now.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published: February 4th 2014
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
ISBN: 1628738251 (ISBN13: 9781628738254)