Spitalfields Life

Patrick

I found this while browsing in Foyles one afternoon. Leafing through it in the shop, my first thought was that it looked very pretty and very interesting and there were lots of photos and I couldn’t remember the last book I read which was printed in double columns, newsprint-style. My second thought was to wonder why I would want to read a book which was only a series of vignettes and profiles based around an area of London which I’ve visited maybe once, given that I live at the opposite side of I found this while browsing in Foyles one afternoon. Leafing through it in the shop, my first thought was that it looked very pretty and very interesting and there were lots of photos and I couldn’t remember the last book I read which was printed in double columns, newsprint-style. My second thought was to wonder why I would want to read a book which was only a series of vignettes and profiles based around an area of London which I’ve visited maybe once, given that I live at the opposite side of town. My third thought was that the second thought was exactly why I should read this book, which may be limited in scope to a relatively small geographical area and yet is unlimited in its pursuit of common human understanding.It is a brave book in its way. I don't only mean because it is so straightforward in its approach, so faithful in its commitment to a documentary-style realism. I am a shy person by nature, and would never even consider striking up a conversation with the landlady of my local pub or the proprietor of my greengrocer or the men who work in the nearest car wash, but I’m so glad somebody went out and did these things and then wrote about their encounters in such an unassuming, unprejudiced way. It feels almost like a lost form of journalism; the only time I read anecdotes like this in the newspapers are when a columnist needs a few vox pop quotes to pad out their own pre-formed opinions. But here is history and life. The Gentle Author has a very particular style which some might call naive, and indeed almost every short piece seems to end on a somewhat wondering, Panglossian note. But another way of putting this would be to say that the author is experienced enough to know when to keep quiet, since it’s exactly their abiding interest in absolutely everything and their total lack of preconceptions which leads them to the point where they are able to tell such interesting stories about the people they meet. I never had the sense that the author was allowing their own style to define the lives of others; it's a careful kind of writing, not wholly unadorned, but also never interfering with the portrait at hand.

A last note about form: it’s the book of a really fantastic blog, which I didn’t actually realise until I finished reading the introduction. This makes sense given the relatively short nature of each essay, but it works perfectly well as a book too. It’s not a book I could plow through at a single sitting - in fact it took me about a month to finish it - but it does suit a more fragmentary, meditative stye of reading. I hope the author wouldn’t consider it a slight if I suggested that it would make perfect bathroom reading (if you were the kind of person to keep books in the bathroom [which I am not]).

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Anders Hanson

This book is entirely made up of posts from the Gentle Author's blog Spitalfields Life. Although you can get all of it for free on the internet, there's something special about reading it in a book held in your own hands that both fits with the subject matter and that makes it more enjoyable.

It is comprised of a glorious collection of vignettes of people who live 0r work in and around the Spitalfields area where the author lives. The name gentle author fits well as they're all good natured and b

This book is entirely made up of posts from the Gentle Author's blog Spitalfields Life. Although you can get all of it for free on the internet, there's something special about reading it in a book held in your own hands that both fits with the subject matter and

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that makes it more enjoyable.It is comprised of a glorious collection of vignettes of people who live 0r work in and around the Spitalfields area where the author lives. The name gentle author fits well as they're all good natured and bring to life these fascinating characters who combined make up the culture, feel and history of the area. Whilst at times a little twee (although if you read separate interviews with the Gentle Author he/she is pretty feisty when it comes to expressing their view on the direction that the area is taking) it is nonetheless a heartwarming yet important collection of a time and a place. In the future this book and the blog will be extensively quoted in histories of the area and its people.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Spitalfields Life and whilst at times it felt as though it was going on too long, then another chapter would draw me back in again. Well worth reading.

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Chris Lilly

There is nothing in the known universe to prepare an unsuspecting reader for the sheer saccharine horror of this thing. Twee, half-baked observations written in cloying prose that would make a jackal gag. Only for people who think that the East End of London has no politics, no conflict, no problem with property developers from The City ripping its heart out. And it helps if you think industrial London is five minutes from the Cotswolds. The Gentle Author should be suspended from a picturesque w There is nothing in the known universe to prepare an unsuspecting reader for the sheer saccharine horror of this thing. Twee, half-baked observations written in cloying prose that would make a jackal gag. Only for people who think that the East End of London has no politics, no conflict, no problem with property developers from The City ripping its heart out. And it helps if you think industrial London is five minutes from the Cotswolds. The Gentle Author should be suspended from a picturesque wrought-iron lamp standard by his hand-woven tweed braces, while Bangla hoodies get into it with tooled-up skins. Has he ever actually been to Spitalfields?...more

Stephanie Rampton

I stumbled across this book by accident and was so glad I did. The Gentle Author, who remains anonymous but is definitely a woman, paints an evocative and compelling picture of the East End of London. Spitalfields is cleverly brought to life through the rich and diverse tales of its inhabitants. I found myself wanting to track down and interview each person myself and, more importantly, support their businesses, many of which have run for generations. I am a huge fan of London and particularly t I stumbled across this book by accident and was so glad I did. The Gentle Author, who remains anonymous but is definitely a woman, paints an evocative and compelling picture of the East End of London. Spitalfields is cleverly brought to life through the rich and diverse tales of its inhabitants. I found myself wanting to track down and interview each person myself and, more importantly, support their businesses, many of which have run for generations. I am a huge fan of London and particularly the East End and this book merely reinforced that. A great book on the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of the true Eastenders!...more

Peter

Interesting glimpses into Spitalfields Live's past and present. Beautifully designed and easily readable one to two/three page biogs/histories making an easy nightime or casual read. Go back to it again and again. For anyone with an interest in London history.

Jeff Howells

The best book on London I've read. TGA writes sympathetically about a year in the life of the East End...moving between the East End that is dying out, the East End that has already gone and the one that has sprung up in its place.

Jennifer

Beautiful wander through East London and all of the characters who reside there.

Taff Jones

I used to live in Spitalfields......"Let me take you by the hand......." Competely mesmerising.

John JungJenniferAllisonBrianSueChris JefferiesLisaKristenJomaanloveJohanne EdgingtonElizaPhilip WilsonDean LloydHerry LawfordJonathanKatherineAmroCatherine RobertsonAnnie WeekesSteven NutterHelen HartCarl-johan Malmsten


Category: Review

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