London history seen through one of its oldest pubs: “Shakespeare’s Local” by Pete Brown

Posted by Justine Solomons on 3 September 2013, in Recommendations

Buy this book here.

Review by Tracey Sinclair.

The title of this book is, as the author cheerfully and rather cheekily admits, something of a misnomer, since there’s little actual evidence that William Shakespeare was ever a regular in the Southwark pub, The George Inn, which is the subject of this study. Don’t let that put you off, though – this is an entertaining romp through London history, filtered through the life of one particular pub.

Brown examines the changing fortunes of the George Inn, tucked away near London Bridge, and how they reflect the city around it. It’s a fascinating and well-researched book, written in a chatty, accessible style: Brown more usually writes about beer, so is merrily irreverent throughout, whether comparing old buildings to the Sugababes (it makes sense in the context, honest) or debunking historical myths, and his enthusiasm for his subject shines through.

Those disappointed by the lack of the Shakespearean connection can be consoled by the fact the book isn’t short on literary references: from examining how the area was transformed by the growing popularity of theatre (including, of course, plays by the Bard himself) to tracing references to London inns in literature from the days of Chaucer, to revealing how a probably fake Dickensian connection did much to save one of London’s oldest pubs, there’s plenty to get your teeth into.  Thoroughly recommended.

Tracey Sinclair's second novel in the Cassandra Bick Chronicles series, Wolf  Night, was self-published earlier this year and can be purchased here.

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