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While it's the Ducket/Doggett/DuQuette family that serves as the focus of the book (keep looking for those folks with the webbed fingers and the shock of white hair as you read), it's the City of London itself (and, arguably, its architecture) which is the book's real showpiece. Be prepared to stick an extra bookmark at the front of the book where the maps are, because you're going to need it. If there was a Roman road leading out a City gate, Rutherford has marked it in the text and you're going to walk down it eventually, so get your bearings early. The cast of characters also grows exponentially through the years, as family trees are wont to do, so keep the page of the family trees marked as well.
This isn't a novel (as the cover proclaims) so much as it is a series of vignettes linked by a constant (and consistent) narrative and cast of characters, and Rutherford makes the most of it. There's some laugh-out-loud bawdiness in here, a dash of The Classic Chase (a la Keystone Kops), a bit of high drama, a few nods to Shakespeare, and even a bit of the Prince and the Pauper. Rutherford makes good use of his time, but there ARE instances when things seem to get wrapped up rather too quickly and too neatly in order to clear the way for the next chapter.
The middle sections of the book seem to move the fastest, which makes sense, given the historical period this portion of the book covers -- the Glorious Revolution, the Civil War, the War of the Roses, and a peek at a Henry VIII who's the biggest skunk you'll ever see this side of Richard III.
There's also some real beauty in here, and Rutherford doesn't skimp on the details of British life and living that really make the book come alive.
It's going to take some time to get through, and you WILL find yourself thumbing back and forth between chapters, maps, and family trees to keep everything sorted out, but it's well worth it. Set aside a week or so, put aside nitpickiness, and just enjoy watching Rutherford go to work.
The book, therefore, succeeds as a primer in the history of a city. We are given the relevant details of the Roman conquest, medieval revolt, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the Great Plague, followed shortly thereafter by the Great Fire, etc., etc. Keep in mind, however, that it is a primer only. In some respects the drawbacks are similar to those faced by Lady Antonia Fraser in her book, The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England. Just as the reader becomes engrossed, or at the least engaged, in the period depicted, the author skips on to a different era and a new story. Of course, in Fraser's defense, she does treat the Royals in much more depth in all of her other books.
If you enjoy Rutherford's accounts, please look to authors such as Daniel Defoe (on the Plague), Samuel Pepys (The Plague, the Fire and the Resoration in general). For amusement, as well as insight, you can't go wrong with Boswell's London Journal or his life of Samuel Johnson. For a compelling account of the Wat Tyler revolt in medieval London, turn to Tuchman or Froissart. A better contemporary novel depicting Restoration London is Rose Tremain's book, Restoration, which can be found here on Amazon. For the most vivid account of London in the 18th century, turn to Jonathan Swift's poem, "A Description of a City Shower." If you want the history, without the fiction, there have been at least four full-scale London histories written in the past decade, most notable among them is Stephen Inman's A History of London.
One caveat, however. The author weaves many landmarks and names from modern-day London into the plots, thereby explaining their historical origins. If you are not familiar with the city, these references could become annoying background noise. But if you have been to London, these tidbits add a great deal to the enjoyment of the work.