Book reviews - The Vintage Guide To London
If you live in London you will probably have a love-hate relationship with the tube. Or maybe just a hate relationship. But is our current, often far from pleasant experience as tube passengers really unique? What was it like taking the tube in Victorian times or during the Twenties? Andrew Martin’s wonderful book Underground, Overground: A Passenger’s History of the Tube reveals the ups and downs of tube travel through the decades.
From the imposing style of the Savoy Hotel through the ornate detail of the West End theatres to Art Deco factories like the Hoover Building, London Art Deco is a brilliant guide to and catalogue of London’s Art Deco legacy.
Who knew that East End Communists once invaded the air-raid shelter of the Savoy or that – for one night only – a suite in Claridge’s was declared Yugoslav territory so that their heir to the throne could be born on home soil?
These and other witty anecdotes and historical facts make up Matthew Sweet’s new book The West End Front (£20, hardback, Faber & Faber), which details the fascinating history of London’s grand hotels during the Blitz.
If the UK screenings of Boardwalk Empire have made you curious about old Blighty’s equivalent of Twenties Prohibition decadence and style, look no further than D.J. Taylor’s Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940 (Chatto, 2007). Rebecka Mustajarvi reviews.
Based mainly on personal accounts, London at War is as much a vivid biography of Londoners during the Second World War as of the city itself. Ranging from the digging of trenches in Hyde Park during the Phoney War, to the horrors of the Blitz, and the frantic outbursts of dancing on the streets of VE-day, Ziegler’s account gives equal balance to the mundane, the melodramatic and the downright bizarre details of life during the war.
Writer Barry Miles, once the head of the Beatles’ spoken word label Zapple and co-founder of the Indica Books and Gallery where John first met Yoko, has compiled a fascinating history of London’s underground and countercultural movements in the decades following the Second World War.