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May 05, 1985|TERRY SHEPARD

THE MAKING OF MODERN LONDON 1914-1939 by Gavin Weightman and Steve Humphries (Sidgwick & Jackson: $19.95). Stimulating, vivid and literate--adjectives not usually applicable to television, let alone books based on television. However, these programs were from London Weekend Television, and the resulting book is all of the above. Studded with Terkel-type interviews and terrific pictures, it engrossingly illustrates the theme that London, between the wars, was a short-lived world, "so different from the Victorian capital and yet quite remote from the place we know today." Each chapter examines a phenomenon that created this new world: the invasion of things American (movies, advertising and even a Chicagoan who founded Selfridges), the arrival of electricity, the expansion of the Underground, the resulting creation of suburbia and professional housewives, and a wave of social reforms. World War II, however, abruptly ended the evolution, the fear of devastating air raids making the concentration of the nation's wealth and population in one place seem a terrible mistake. The only mistake made by this fascinating book is the absence of a map, for those of us who aren't London cabbies and don't know Bermondsey from Becontree.

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