The Frozen Thames, Helen Humphreys

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Perhaps even a river needs to rest and, like a garden asleep in the winter, will come back stronger because of the pause. Perhaps ice is a kind of sleep.

As far as we know (which is to say, as far back as we know), the Thames has frozen forty times since its beginnings as a river. In 1831, the building of a new London Bridge and the deepening of the channel meant that the Thames began to flow too quickly to freeze again in the middle of London. In The Frozen Thames, Helen Humphreys provides us with a series of vignettes taking place during these freezing periods, most of them based on documented events. It’s easy to speed through this book, but I expect to return to it once the madness of Bookstravaganza is at an end. The language is lush and precise, and the stories are fascinating. Humphreys made me care, within only two or three short pages, about the people attached to these stories.

The stories are snippets, and usually quite simple, but always poignant. Some are fairly uplifting, while others (1709! 1709!), are utterly heartbreaking (again, in a few short pages).

Books read: 2


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