Book Review: Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Title: Mudlarking
Author: Lara Maiklem
Publication Date: 15th October 2019
RRP: $32.99AUD (correct at time of writing)

Synopsis: "For thousands of years human beings have been losing their possessions and dumping their rubbish in the River Thames, making it the longest and most varied archaeological site in the world.

Lara Maiklem has trekked miles along the banks of the Thames, scouring the shores for over fifteen years in pursuit of the objects that the river unearths: these objects tell her about London and its lost ways of life. Where others only see the detritus of city life, expert mudlarker Maiklem unearths evidence of England's captivating history, with some objects dating back as far as 43AD when London was an outpost of the Roman Empire, up to the present day. A mudlarker can expect to find Neolithic flints, Roman hair pins, medieval buckles, Tudor buttons, Georgian clay pipes and Victorian toys."

My thoughts: Okay, wow. This was pretty fascinating! I had never really thought about it, but of course the Thames must contain so much stuff - both things considered 'rubbish', but also those things of historical importance. And those aren't mutually exclusive - the act of mudlarking seems to bring home the truth of the statement of 'one man's trash, another man's treasure'.

Lara Maiklem is a wonderful guide through the world of mudlarking - I appreciated her gentle tone, and how she explained the history behind certain areas of the Thames, the items she has found, and also how she weaved in her own story with the stories of the items she was discovering. This combination makes this book such a delight to read, and I found myself really immersed (trying not to make water/river puns, but it's difficult...) in both the present day experience of mudlarking, as well as the little glimmers of the past that shine through. 

I will say that I think this book could have benefited from some photos or at least some sort of graphic representation of the things that Maiklem was talking about - while (in my edition, anyway) the endpapers do show the absolutely gorgeous drawings of one of Maiklem's mudlark friends, they seem to have very little to do with what Maiklem is talking about. I think a small section of photos of Maiklem's collection would have made the whole experience even more immersive and would have lent a stronger understanding, too.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed my time with this book. I won't say that this is a new favourite, simply because I'm not sure mudlarking is something I really want to do, but I appreciated the little glimpse into the world of the mudlark, and I also found my interest in history and historical artefacts raise its weary head and take a closer look.

{I received a review copy of this book from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'As I have discovered, it is often the tiniest of objects that tell the greatest stories.'

You would like this book if: you are intrigued by archaeological finds and discussion of how things have changed over time in one place.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Any tea, but perhaps out of a vintage teacup, whilst you think about when the design on said teacup came into fashion, when it was made... who else has used it...

Rating:  8/10

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