Thames: Sacred River by Peter Ackroyd - review by Christopher Hart

Christopher Hart

Magical Depths

Thames: Sacred River


Chatto & Windus 490pp £25

Being a Peter Ackroyd ‘history’ or imaginative excursion down England’s most famous river, Sacred River is a book full of dreams and visions, whimsy and religiosity, and sometimes unfalsifiable and overly lush forays into the Imagination of Albion. As usual, Ackroyd is never less than fascinating, if not always convincing; and I would surmise that he has been excellently served by his two researchers, Thomas Wright and Murrough O’Brien, whom he thanks in the acknowledgements. One of the best purely factual aspects of the book is the wonderful ‘Alternative Topography’ at the end.

Otherwise it is much more of a thematic and free-floating examination, beginning not with ancient geology of the river, as the work of a more pedestrian and linear writer might, but with ‘the river as fact’‚ and ‘the river as metaphor’. And what a myriad of symbols and metonymies he

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