Thames, Peter Ackroyd

I have to say, this was the perfect airplane book.  I know because I spent eighteen hours traveling to London last week (I know, right?  Long flight with several layovers), and Thames was my primary reading material.  My grandmother sent it to me for my birthday, and originally I wasn’t going to bring it along on the trip.  It’s a big fat hardback with heavy pages and four sets of plates (two color, two black-and-white) – very beautiful, but not practical on a plane trip where luggage has weight considerations.  But I couldn’t resist.

Thames wasn’t what I expected – I thought Peter Ackroyd was going to tell more stories about the river and things that had happened on it throughout history.  I was expecting a biography, which I suppose is down to the fact that he wrote a previous book on London and called it London: The Biography.  This is not Thames: The Biography.  It’s descriptions of the river from several dozen different viewpoints – the viewpoint of worship, art, geography, etc.  The chapters are nice and short, which is excellent for traveling.  It was very easy to pick up and put down again, if I got sleepy or we went to get something to eat or our plane started boarding.

My one complaint was that sometimes I thought Peter Ackroyd was drawing conclusions that were too sweeping, or a bit of a stretch.  I can’t think of any right now, of course, and am much too lazy to get up as I spent yesterday walking several miles up a canal, and today walking all over London hunting for a museum that we did not, ultimately, end up going to visit.  But I enjoyed the book as a whole, a lot.  Fascinating topics, and the pictures were just beautiful.  Oh, and then the day after I’d read all about canals, I visited one.  With locks.