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The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys
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The Frozen Thames (2007)

by Helen Humphreys

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The river Thames has frozen over 40 times. In lovely spare prose Helen Humphreys has written a vignette for each of those times, based on events that actually took place. The pieces are accompanied by period art, creating a stunning visual experience.

Most of the stories are written about ordinary citizens and the effects the extreme cold and frozen river had on their lives, though royals do appear in a few. Frost fairs would spring up on the ice where all manner of entertainment was available. Enterprising citizens would rent booths where they could offer games, puppet shows, and of course food and drink. At least one year there was a booth where a person could buy a piece of paper with their very own name printed on it.

I preferred to read the vignettes slowly, one or two a night, but at 180 pages it could be read straight through quickly. A great gift for a person interested in history or the environment, the book is physically small, about seven or so inches in height and can easily be carried in a tote bag or backpack. ( )
  clue | Feb 3, 2017 |
This is a quick and easy read but it is very much worth the time to read it slowly and in little bits. 40 little portraits of moments in time when the Thames river froze in recorded history. I really liked this. ( )
  RBeffa | Oct 22, 2016 |
mar 2013
  MatkaBoska | Jun 15, 2016 |
Hm. I have mixed feelings. The language was gorgeous. The vignettes were mostly interesting & even illuminating of the human condition. But 'a meditation on the ice' doesn't tell me what the book means, what it's supposed to say to me. At least, not by using real history.

That is to say, if this were more clearly faithful to history, and/or if the different 'characters' had different Voices, and/or it had some science in it, or if it were actually more fictionalized (not giving the impression it was claiming to be non-fiction). I would have enjoyed & respected it more. As is it came across as rawther pretentious and all that....

Btw, my library calls it fiction, shelving it with contemporary novels. I think it reads like it belongs with Poetry or Classic Literature, in the non-fiction section of the library.

And I will investigate other works by the author. A different kind of book would make better use of her beautiful writing style. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
This lovely little book is surprisingly solid, much like the River Thames that it describes over its long history of frozen moments. The 40 recorded times that the Thames has frozen solid, over the 12th to the 19th Centuries, are each tied to a personal story featuring the river in some social context. I was struck by the frequency of freezings in the 1600s and think this period is now known as a little ice age.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what each little story was going to capture and how from time to time they did surprise. The loss of income from ferrymen was a frequent theme, as was birds dropping form the sky- encased in ice! I was struck by the ease of travel that the frozen river afforded the commoner who was used to having to pay for the right to cross. Descriptions of general hardship the cold brought to everyone by way of less food for themselves and animals, and the social disruption all around, felt like accurate portrayals of lives lived so long ago. I felt that the stories were sweet and delightful, and they gave a window on the changing world of London over nearly 1000 years. ( )
1 vote Ireadthereforeiam | Mar 9, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Helen Humphreysprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hondius, AbrahamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lockley, RowlandCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pearson, BrigidCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Richardson, C.S.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Valerie Ashford and in memory of Elizabeth Ashford.
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In its long history; the river Thames has frozen solid forty times. These are the stories of the frozen river:
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385342810, Hardcover)

In its long history, the river Thames has frozen solid forty times. These are the stories of that frozen river.

So begins this breathtaking and original work, which contains forty vignettes based on events that actually took place each time the historic Thames froze solid. Spanning more than seven centuries—from 1142 to 1895—and illustrated with stunning full-color period art, The Frozen Thames is an achingly beautiful feat of the imagination…a work of fiction that transports us back through history to cast us as intimate observers of unforgettable moments in time.

Whether we’re viewing the magnificent spectacle of King Henry VIII riding across the ice highway (while plotting to rid himself of his second wife) or participating in a joyous Frost Fair on the ice, joining lovers meeting on the frozen river during the plague years or coming upon the sight of a massive ship frozen into the Thames…these unforgettable stories are a triumph of the imagination as well as a moving meditation on love, loss, and the transformative powers of nature.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:57 -0400)

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Contains forty fiction vignettes based on events that actually took place each time the historic River Thames froze solid. Spanning more than seven centuries, from 1142 to 1895, and illustrated with stunning full-color period art.

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