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May 2020

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COMMENTS

The Book of London Place Names by Caroline Taggart

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Those who like to have access to basic trivia about places they live or visit.

In a nutshell:
Author Taggart provides some history in an accessible way.

Worth quoting:
“…no one seems to be sure, but there was probably once …”
(Seriously, it seems like for half the names, this is the answer.)

Why I chose it:
Moved to London. Wanted to learn more.

Review:
I think this is the last of the books I bought on sort of a whim when I first moved here and wanted to learn as much as I could about London. Considering I’ve been here for well over two years and am just getting to them now, clearly I didn’t dive right in.

I’ve now read a few books like this one, and I think overall it’s probably the easiest read. It feels a bit repetitive at times, but that’s because most of the places have similar stories – they are names for someone royal, or for someone no one can remember, or for a geological feature.

I appreciated that Taggart didn’t include stories about ever street or every part of London – she picked some highlights. Now, I’m not sure how much cultural awareness went into her decision-making; it’s entirely possible that she systematically left out areas that might have significance to BAME groups or immigrants. But she did at least cover London south of the river, which I think some folks forget even exists. To that end, I live and work (when I’m not in lock-down) in south London, so I especially enjoyed learning about the history of the places I used to walk by every day.

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