Tag: Lara Maiklem

Review – Mudlarking

Posted September 5, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Mudlarking by Lara MaiklamMudlarking, Lara Maiklem

The term “mudlark” might be familiar to you if you read Victorian history or books set in the Victorian period: it referred to people, often children, who would pick through the mud of the River Thames in order to find valuable things people dropped or which got lost from ships docking in London. Lara Maiklem is a modern mudlark, picking through the mud not as a means of making a livelihood, but for personal interest. She is, broadly speaking, a responsible one — documenting her finds correctly when they may count as historically significant or be classed as treasure trove, and avoiding mudlarking in areas where it’s forbidden. Or so she says, at least; it’s impossible to verify that, and occasionally her “of course I won’t tell you where” attitude to “her patch” raises an eyebrow.

She writes engagingly, though any single topic is quickly lost in the flow: there are so many different objects with stories and explanations, and each chapter covers at least a dozen, from old clay pipes to pieces of Roman hypocausts to bones to Codd bottles to pins… There’s no end to what can be found in the mud of the river after each tide, and she delights in all kinds of things that many would dismiss as trash, imbuing them with stories and researching who they may have belonged to whenever she can. Obviously this book is half a work of imagination, as she tries to picture the hands that handled and lost the objects she finds.

It’s just the sort of microhistory that interests me, magpie-minded in my own way, so that shouldn’t be taken as a criticism, necessarily — and she’s not presenting herself as a historian, so I don’t mind her flights of fancy so much. She does include a bibliography, if you want to go digging yourself, though it’d take a lot of digging to figure out where any particular factoid came from, and I suspect many of her sources from over the years aren’t listed.

It’s just worth knowing that this is a bit of a ramble, and a highly personal book, rather than a historical account of the River Thames or anything of that sort. There’s a lot of history in it, but piecemeal and cracked and strewn about the place, as befits a mudlark.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted September 2, 2020 by Nicky in General / 6 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of Mudlarking by Lara MaiklamWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: The Belting Inheritance, by Julian Symons. It’s heavy going compared to a lot of the other British Library Crime Classics; it’s very consciously literally, and it has a rather stodgy narrator (an older man narrating events of his youth, groan).

Non-fiction: I’m back to reading Afua Hirsch’s Brit(ish), having got my ereader all set up again after the replacement, and also got back to the front of the queue from the library. I’m finding it hard going, not because of the subject matter, but just something about the writing. I’ve never done that well with memoir, and that’s largely what this is, though it does also discuss society-wide issues.

I’m also reading Lara Maiklem’s Mudlarking, which is a very easy read. I love microhistories, so perhaps it’s not surprising that this exploration of mudlarking and the things you can find while doing it is working for me.

Cover of Unfit For Purpose by Adam HartWhat have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was Adam Hart’s Unfit for Purpose, which I found a fairly obvious exploration of how human beings are ill-adapted to our modern environment because we evolved for a wholly different one. It never really dug into the issues enough to satisfy me.

Cover of Drift Wood by Marie BrennanWhat will you be reading next?

Most likely I will get back to work on The Grace of Kings, which I’ve been neglecting a bit too long. I have a whole shelf-full of books I’m partway through (or have been partway through at some point in the last… year-ish) that I want to pick back up, but there’s also a chance I’ll pick Marie Brennan’s Driftwood first.

What are you currently reading?

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