Thursday, June 13, 2013

Non-Fiction Review: London Underground's Strangest Tales

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of London's Underground, or as it is affectionately referred to, the Tube. Here readers will find stories of the real Underground, the strange and twisted nooks and crannies of what happens hundreds of miles below millions of London legs.

London Underground's Strangest Tales: Extraordinary but true stories

Spragg, Iain (2013)

[Genre: Facts & Trivia, History]

Thanks to Anova Books for providing a review copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The synopsis of this book sounded fantastic. The London Underground must have hundreds of fascinating stories hidden in its depths, and random collections of interconnected stories often make for the best non-fiction. I truly wanted to like this book. But I really really didn't.

There are some interesting tales and facts here, that is undoubtedly true. However, none of the 'tales,' which are at most 3 pages long, went beyond superficial trivia. Unfortunately superficial trivia really doesn't do the Tube the justice it deserves. I kept hoping for more insight, more depth, but it just didn't emerge. Even worse, the author seemed to sway towards the opposite perspective entirely. The tone is jokey, sometimes inappropriately so (such as when discussing bombs on the tube, a topic that is all to real for many citizens of London). Often the jokes are only vaguely related to what the author is trying to tell us, which made me question what the book was meant to be about. It seemed like it was less about the London Underground and more an opportunity for Spragg to poke fun at the Queen, politicians, historical figures, athletes, the general public and whomever else he felt like. It's the sort of humour that I may have found funny as an eight year old reading a book of trivia, but it just doesn't fit in a book aimed at adults.

When I reached the end, the superficial nature of the book became obvious in the bibliography. The research seems to have been done entirely from other books of trivia about London and the London underground, with a few websites thrown in for good measure. There's no real depth here because there was no depth to begin with, just recycling. It's so disappointing, it actually makes me sad. It could have been so different.


2 stars. The potential of the premise JUST saves it from one. But oh how I wish it had been better.


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