First published in 2008 by Mcclelland & Stewart Ltd, The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys’ is a gem of a book. Humphreys’s chilling prose is at once bewitching and insightful, making this magical collection a must read.
Due in part to the Little Ice Age and further impeded by the Old London Bridge, the River Thames has frozen over forty times throughout British history. Through a series of vignettes and period art, The Frozen Thames chronicles the events accompanying the Thames solidification.
Each of Humphreys’ forty vignettes contextualizes British history in a way that seamlessly enters the reader’s mind. Humphreys’ writing is vivid and engaging. The images she provides are powerfully photographic and will linger in the reader’s mind long after they set the book down. In their poeticism, each sketch deftly illustrates a spectacularly beautiful world, touched by frost and sufferance. From the Frost Fairs erect on the frozen river to lovers cursed by the Black Plague, The Frozen Thames takes its readers on a journey from 1142 to the river’s last freeze in 1895.
To frame the River Thames unique history, narrative shifts exist between vignettes, further illuminating life in London prior to the 20th century. The writing draws on both first person and omniscient narration. The omniscient narration casts a spell over the writing and yields a more haunting experience. The first person, however, provides a more intimate experience by allowing readers to interact with Humphreys’ myriad of characters.
The Frozen Thames is the kind of book that you’ll want to read over and over. It is a short and compendious read but manages to encapsulate years worth of research. Get cozy because this book will lure you into a frozen world you won’t want to resist.
About Helen Humphreys:
Helen Humphreys’ is the award-winning author of five novels, four books of poetry and one of creative non-fiction (The Frozen Thames.) She was born in London, England in1961 and now lives in Kingston, Ontario with her dog, Hazel.
Feature Image: View of the Thames off Three Cranes Wharf when Frozen, Monday 31 January to Saturday 5 February 1814, on which a Fair was held, attended by many Hundred Persons by Charles Calvert (1785-1852).