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London Fog: The Biography Hardcover – 3 November 2015

3.5 out of 5 stars 19 ratings

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: The Belknap Press; 1st edition (November 3, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674088352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674088351
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 680 g
  • Customer reviews: Be the first to review this item

Product description


Brilliant...Corton has a deft historical, literary and visual eye. While tracing the birth, maturity and death of fog, she pays careful attention to the ways it affected everyday lives and locations...But her real interest is in the way fog played in the imagination. For centuries, she shows, novelists, essayists, cartoonists and painters used fog as a metaphor for human relationships and the moral order...Corton's book is an unsentimental and elegant reflection on a world that has passed.--Joanna Bourke"Daily Telegraph" (11/14/2015)

Engrossing and magnificently researched...Corton's book combines meticulous social history with a wealth of eccentric detail. Thus we learn that London's ubiquitous plane trees were chosen for their shiny, fog-resistant foliage. And since Jack the Ripper actually went out to stalk his victims on fog-free nights, filmmakers had to fake the sort of dank, smoke-wreathed London scenes audiences craved. It's discoveries like these that make reading London Fog such an unusual, enthralling and enlightening experience.--Miranda Seymour"New York Times Book Review" (11/01/2015)

Endlessly entertaining... Corton has done a prodigious amount of research into the phenomenon of the 'pea-soup' fogs that enveloped London at regular intervals throughout the Industrial Age... Corton's book is merrily chock-full of illustrations... But the real star attraction in these pages is Corton's exuberant omniscience about her subject. She seems to have read every tenth-rate serialized novel in the whole of the Victorian and Edwardian literary shrubbery, hunting out every mention and dramatization of the great fogs and in the process giving some truly wretched writers what will surely be the most intelligent reading they're ever likely to get. And she's got an equally good ear for reportage, finding piercing quotes from every era of the fog's domination... London Fog has enjoyed a nicely wide critical reception since its appearance, and it deserves every accolade it gets. This is tight-focus popular history at its finest.--Steve Donoghue"Open Letters Monthly" (11/09/2015)

The idea of a biography of fog in London might initially appear a doubtful enterprise, but in Christine Corton's capable hands it works brilliantly. The liveliness of metropolitan fog is beautifully charted here in a long chronology from the Stuart era to the Clean Air Acts of the 1950s to 1990s...[A] most extraordinarily rich collection of material from scientific, journalistic, literary, humorous, artistic and medical sources...She has created a history of fog's material and immaterial culture...The text is interspersed with some astonishing visual material, appropriately placed, making the book a visual feast especially of little-known artworks, caricatures and photographs of great beauty. Corton's use of the perceptions of foreign visitors, especially those from China and Japan, is revelatory...London Fog is not just a literary exercise; it also charts the long trajectory of a deeply serious public health matter that we have yet to confront, as we should, once again...This fine book has real substance, generously shared, and is very timely indeed.--Ruth Richardson"Times Higher Education" (10/29/2015)

[Corton's] fascinating history traces London's unique brand of photochemical smog from its surprisingly early birth in the 13th century, when complaints about the burning of 'sea coal' in London hearths began, through its malign maturity in the 19th, to its death throes in the second half of the 20th...The many well-chosen images in London Fog include works by minor painters of London scenes and by various illustrators, photojournalists and cartoonists playing on the terror, confusion and comedy caused by fog. These add greatly to the interest of Corton's book.--Catherine Peters"Literary Review" (11/01/2015)

Christine Corton's excellent book explores three questions: how people accounted for London fog, what they did about it, and how it became such an enormous, apparently inexhaustible cultural resource and metaphor...Corton has assembled an astonishing display of fog fiction...Corton has written a thoughtful, vivid, very memorable book.--Neal Ascherson"London Review of Books" (10/08/2015)

Ambitious...The book is substantial, well illustrated and beautifully written, with approachable scholarship...[An] illuminating book.--Philippa Stockley"Country Life" (10/14/2015)

As Christine L. Corton shows in her lively and engaging cultural history, for more than 100 years London fog did not only creep into people's homes and bodies. It saturated their way of thinking. If fog was an inescapable part of city life--in Dickens's famous opening to Bleak House, the word is repeated so often it sounds more like a curse--it was an equally omnipresent element in the cultural imagination.--Robert Douglas-Fairhurst"The Spectator" (11/07/2015)

[An] engrossing book...This book could almost make one nostalgic for the days of the pea souper were it not for the fact that it was clearly a terrible threat to health.--Daisy Goodwin"The Times" (11/14/2015)

London Fog: The Biography successfully captures the enormous impact this atmospheric had on a major city's everyday life. Ironically, the result is a portrait that is both well-defined and sharply delineated.--Amy Henderson"Weekly Standard" (10/26/2015)

About the Author

Christine L. Corton is a Senior Member of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and a freelance writer. She worked for many years at publishing houses in London.

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Most helpful customer reviews on 3.5 out of 5 stars 19 reviews
2.0 out of 5 starsDisappointed...
July 3, 2017 - Published on
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8 people found this helpful.
Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsA captivating and brilliant book for anyone who loves London (or literature, or art, or history or, well, fog!)
November 5, 2015 - Published on
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33 people found this helpful.
4.0 out of 5 starsFast-paced, well researched, referenced and illustrated scholarly book
June 1, 2016 - Published on
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One person found this helpful.
Adele Camus
2.0 out of 5 starsIf somebody else had selected judiciously from all this wonderful information and written it up in a lighter syle
June 24, 2016 - Published on
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3 people found this helpful.
Marjean M. Hull
4.0 out of 5 starsGood overview of life in London
December 6, 2016 - Published on
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One person found this helpful.