Spitalfields Life (Paperback)
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"I am going to write every single day and tell you about my life here in Spitalfields at the heart of London..."
Drawing comparisons with Pepys, Mayhew and Dickens, the gentle author of Spitalfields Life has gained an extraordinary following in recent years, by writing hundreds of lively pen portraits of the infinite variety of people who live and work in the East End of London.
Everything you seek in London can be found here - street life, street art, markets, diverse food, immigrant culture, ancient houses and history, pageants and parades, rituals and customs, traditional trades and old family businesses.
Spend a night in the bakery at St John, ride the rounds with the Spitalfields milkman, drop in to the Golden Heart for a pint, meet a fourth-generation paper bag seller, a mudlark who discovers treasure in the river Thames, a window cleaner who sees ghosts and a master bell-founder whose business started in 1570. Join the bunny girls for their annual reunion, visit the wax sellers of Wentworth Street and discover the site of Shakespeare's first theatre.
All of human life is here in Spitalfields Life.
About the Author
"In the midst of life I woke to find myself living in an old house beside Brick Lane in the East End of London". Little is known of the enigmatic gentle author but every reader knows the gentle author is their intimate confidante and friend who reveals the candid stories of the remarkable people to be found in Spitalfields.
A joy to read, whether you know Spitalfields or not . . . It's not for nothing that the author's observational skills and ability to convey them to the reader have led some to liken them to Pepys and Dickens . . . Some places have a heart and a soul, a special something, and if it touches you it will grip you and hold you and captivate you. Spitalfields is such a place . . . An unusual book that's pure joy, a tribute to life—We Love This Book
A lovely book . . . A celebration of London life in all its unpredictable quirkiness, a paean to what the Gentle Author sees as Londoners' defining feature - their resourcefulness . . . They are given a fitting memorial in these eloquent pages—Times Literary Supplement
A thing of sheer wonder, and I don't know where to start with all the things I love about it . . . By celebrating the extraordinary things that make this area special it must be hoped The Gentle Author will help protect them. And the sumptuous prose is accompanied by some stunning visuals. . . All in all it's a joy to hold, a joy to read and a joy to look at.—It's Nice That
A whole piece of London is here, ghosts of Spitalfields' past haunting the vibrant present. It is unlike any other book.—Susan Hill, Spectator Books of the Year
Beguiling . . . follows in the tradition of Pepys or Dickens in its attention to the lively diversity of the city—The Lady
Charming yarns and fascinating nuggets of local history . . . there's plenty to admire in this endearing, beautifully illustrated volume—Time Out
East End life tumbles from these cornucopian pages—Independent
Every once in a while a book just takes my breath away. . . Spitalfields Life is evidence, were it needed, that though it is all there and free to read online, there is still something very special about the book in the hand, especially when it is a work of art in its own right—dovegreyreader.typepad.com
Following in the footsteps of Dickens, Pepys and Orwell, the author blends history with interviews in a series of short pen portraits . . . An elegantly presented, generous and good-natured book, it offers an antidote to the sense of disconnection a big city such as London can engender. A city is its people and here they are celebrated in a way that will resonate beyond the East End—Financial Times Weekend
For a unique insight into everyday life in the East End, let blogger The Gentle Author take you on a journey into Spitalfields' street life, art, markets, houses and culture . . . A treasure trove—Evening Standard ES magazine
For the brief time of reading, one steps into the skin of the subject, and inhabits them. Inherits them, perhaps.—Evening Standard
If someone created a local blogs award ceremony, Spitalfields Life would sweep the nominations list like the King's Speech. We'd certainly select it for best blog, best interviews and best (relative) newcomer. The format is simple, but done with panache. Every single day, the 'gentle author' tracks down a fascinating local character for an interview and photo shoot. Just in the past three days we've had a foam merchant, a man with 330-year-old wallpaper, and a selection of clowns at the annual Grimaldi service. Whatever next?—The Londonist
In an Olympic year awash with books about London, no work came close to the eccentric charm and warmth on offer in Spitalfields Life by the anonymous "Gentle Author". This deadpan blogger's encounters with East Enders old and new, now transformed into a sumptuous volume, built into an irresistible group portrait of modern metropolitans and their overlapping histories... rather like WG Sebald—Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
Lovingly drawn portraits of remarkable, ordinary folk . . . a towering achievement . . . SPITALFIELDS LIFE is undoubtedly a significant work of social history—Guardian
Marvellous... each character glows with life, and the totality is a fascinating and multi-faceted portrait of this corner of London, which highlights both its continuities and its constant evolution—Independent on Sunday
My London book of the year. . . A quite beautiful design from Saltyard Books. . . East End life tumbles from these pages in truly Chaucerian abundance. . . Each interviewee fits a piece into the magnificent mosaic. As a result of this painstaking work of listening, shaping and explaining, comments the Gentle Author, "the city has become a more human place for me". It will for every reader too—Independent
SPITALFIELDS LIFE points you to London's hidden gems—Stylist
Sam Johnson would have said, "If you aren't reading Spitalfields Life, you are tired of life, " etc. It's wondrous.—Twitter @ Skdadl
The Gentle Author builds up a convincing picture of urban life below the radar of the urban sociologist . . . His accounts should be enjoyed (as they are intended to be) as relics of ordinary lives, demonstrating how the ordinary is so often extraordinary on close inspection—Spectator
These wonderful stories shine anew in an attractive, beautifully illustrated book format. We can't recommend it highly enough—Londonist
This fine collection includes many memorable episodes on the history and heritage of the area, and many colourful characters such as a rhyme collector, street artist, rapper, mudlark and a master bell founder—The Times