Just across the River Thames from St Paul's Cathedral stands an old and elegant house. Over the course of almost 450 years the dwelling on this site has witnessed many changes. From its windows, people have watched the ferrymen carry Londoners to and from Shakespeare's Globe; they have gazed on the Great Fire; they have seen the countrified lanes of London's marshy south bank give way to a network of wharves, workshops and tenements - and then seen these, too, become dust and empty air.
Rich with anecdote and colour, this fascinating book breathes life into the forgotten inhabitants of the house - the prosperous traders; an early film star; even some of London's numberless poor. In so doing it makes them stand for legions of others and for a whole world that we have lost through hundreds of years of London's history.
Gillian Tindall is well known for the quality of her writing and the meticulous nature of her research. She is a master of miniaturist history, making a particular person or situation stand for a much larger picture. She began her career as a prize-winning novelist and has continued to publish fiction, but she has also staked out a particular territory in idiosyncratic non-fiction that is brilliantly evocative of place. Her The Fields Beneath: the history of one London village, which first appeared almost thirty years ago, has rarely been out of print since; nor has Celestine: voices from a French village, published in the mid-1990s and translated into several languages, for which she was decorated by the French government. Her two most recent books are The Journey of Martin Nadaud ('haunting and moving...impossible not love for its humanity and integrity' The Times) and The Man Who Drew London Wenceslaus Hollar in reality and imagination ('a book that is both elegant and thoughtful' Sunday Telegraph), also published by Pimlico. Gillian Tindell lives with her husband in London, in a house that is old - though not as old as the house by the Thames that forms the centrepiece of her present book.