Thames: Sacred River

Peter Ackroyd
Thames - Sacred river

Ackroyd follows this great river from its source to the sea. Its history, the flora and fauna, its geology, smells and colours, its literature, laws and landscape, its magic and myths, its architecture, trade and weather. We learn about the fish; about floods and tides; hauntings and suicides; sewers, weirs and embankments. Ackroyd has a genius for digging out surprising details, and for writing about them in magisterial prose.

‘Ackroyd’s gift is to write history in the idiom of a poet. As soon as you open this account of the Thames, you will want to immerse yourself in it.’ Telegraph

‘As always with Ackroyd, it’s not just the subject that sets this book apart but also the compelling new perspectives he brings.’ The Times

‘The Thames’s daily flow (four-and-a-half billion gallons, measured at Teddington Weir) rivals that of the prolific Ackroyd, and this sturdy book twists and turns into an entertaining historical and geographical account redolent of England’s very heart… At first, Thames: Sacred River appears a meditation upon the shared subconscious but is in fact, as with the river itself, something where one can halt at any point, cast off, and land a gem. Many readers set about Ackroyd’s London: The biography in that random fashion, as they did his less popular but equally engrossing study of the English imagination, Albion. These are hefty works which can be rewardingly snacked upon.’ The Independent

‘You might well think that the garlanded biographer of Dickens and Turner was born to write this extraordinary book. Ackroyd notes how great chroniclers of the Thames, from Chaucer to Conrad, have added to an outpouring of poetry and prose. His own contribution is a powerful current in this ‘river of words’. The Observer

‘A very enjoyable and highly idiosyncratic account of the subject. Plenty of books, sane, mad, analytical and fanciful, have been written about the River, and plenty more will be. This one I recommend strongly.’ Philip Hensher, The Spectator


  • Chatto & Windus UK
  • Nan A Talese Books USA
  • Knaus Germany
  • Neri Pozza Italy
  • Olga Morozova Russia
  • Shanghai Literature & Art China (simplified)

Material: finished copies (490pp)