I have a fascinating non-fiction book to share with you all today, in the form of London Clay by Tom Chivers. Many thanks to Tom, and to Doubleday, for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.
Part personal memoir, part lyrical meditation, London Clay takes us deep in to the nooks and crannies of a forgotten city: a hidden landscape long buried underneath the sprawling metropolis. Armed with just his tattered Streetfinder map, author Tom Chivers follows concealed pathways and explores lost islands, to uncover the geological mysteries that burst up through the pavement and bubble to the surface of our streets.
From Roman ruins to a submerged playhouse, abandoned Tube stations to ancient riverbeds, marshes and woodlands, this network of journeys combines to produce a compelling interrogation of London’s past. London Clay examines landscape and our connection to place, and celebrates urban edgelands: in-between spaces where the natural world and the city mingle, and where ghosts of the deep past can be felt as a buzzing in the skull. It is also a personal account of growing up in London, and of overcoming loss through the layered stories of the capital.
Written in rich and vivid prose, London Clay will inspire readers to think about what lies beneath their feet, and by doing so reveal new ways of looking at the city.
London Clay is a fascinating read that is part history lesson, part geology lesson. Until reading this book, I had always thought I had something of a familiarity with London having visited regularly for both business and pleasure. I also thought I knew a fair amount about the city’s past lives, having a fondness for history. However, the more I read, the more I realised how totally oblivious I had been on my visits – I had walked so many of the streets, even attended meetings in some of the buildings mentioned, and yet I had no clue of what was around me and underneath my feet.
This is a book that is positively overflowing with information, and is one that will require reading again because I am quite sure that I didn’t fully absorb everything on the first read. The time that has been dedicated to researching the “deep city” and the level of detail included is astounding.
There is a beautiful lyrical feel to the writing, and it came as no surprise to find out that Tom Chivers is a poet. London Clay reads like a love letter to London, and made me long for the day that I return for a visit – quite possibly with this book in my hand to retrace some of the steps that Tom Chivers took and try to really understand the rich history of the city.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tom Chivers is a poet and publisher. He is the author of two pamphlets and two full collections of poetry to date, and is director of the independent press Penned in the Margins. In 2008 he was the Bishopsgate Institute’s first writer in residence, and has appeared widely at events and made a number of contributions to radio, including presenting a 30 minute documentary for Radio 4. He has collaborated with the climate arts organisation Cape Farewell and conducts immersive walking tours of London. Chivers is currently an Associate Artist of the National Centre for Writing.
Why not visit the other blogs taking part in the tour to find out more about London Clay?