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I Never Knew That About London by Christopher Winn is well read by Timothy Bentinck and is a mildly diverting listen for those interested in London’s long history. It is organized by neighborhood and can be hard to follow especially in the audio version without the benefit of page layout clues.
It is basically a long list of random facts about London locations organized only by their rough proximity. The information can be extremely esoteric. Along the lines of, “On this street lived Terry Dunno the drummer for an early 60s band you’ve never heard of, as well as John Whosit the green-grocer credited with introducing the avocado to London in 1912. Both houses were demolished in 1970.”
Christopher Winn frequently references the locations for film shoots, but they tend to be rather obvious such as, “Notting Hill drew international attention as the setting for the 1999 movie, Notting Hill.” Or so obscure you will wonder why he included them such as his several references to locations for the 2003 film Johnny English.
I could imagine a Londoner picking up this book at the library and learning a few interesting facts about their neighborhood to share at the pub but it’s far too trivial for anyone interested in an actual history. On Audible try London a Short History of the Greatest City in the World from the Great Courses or A. N. Wilsons’ very brief but compelling London A History. For the tourist looking for greater depth of understanding the excellent Rough Guide to London (not on Audible) gives historical context, points out hidden oddities and obscure sites, as well as giving you the practical information you need to visit the city. This guide book is written with more context and humor than Mr Winn manages.
I Never Knew That About London is entertaining and in a scattered way, informative, but it feels more like sitting down and reading the questions and answers off Trivial Pursuit cards than anything you will remember once its ten hours are over.
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
Disjointed and generally dull. If I hadn't been born in london, this book would not make me want to visit the place.
0 of 2 people found this review helpful
Interesting - especially if you know London. The reader has a pleasant, clear voice. A slight irritation is that measurements are given in both imperial and metric units: "the arch is x feet (y metres) wide,"etc, over and over again. At least Scotland Yard is not referred to as "Scotland 89.3 centimetres"!
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Great and interesting facts about London, but very fast paced and a lot to take in. That said a fascinating insight.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up I Never Knew That About London in three words, what would they be?
Quirky and delightful stories about one of the biggest cities in the modern world. Great for someone who has visited London a few times and can relate to some of facts about the city and wants to reminisce.