Book Review: The Underground Storyteller

I started this book being very excited. I’ve watched the author’s Youtube videos for a long time, and I’ve always found the London Underground very interesting. I’m stuck now though. At first, I was loving reading it. The tone and the quirky little stories really interested me. But I have a couple of problems with the book which mean I’m finding it hard to read it.

Firstly, the book is Alex’s journey along the train line. That’s interesting, but in quite a few places, he simply describes what it looks like, which isn’t at all interesting. In some places, he simply mentions the name as he rides past it. I think in most cases this is because he talks about the station in another chapter (because stations often overlap), but in terms of being able to follow along with him it’s a little confusing. I don’t think he visited every station either, because he only mentions Edgeware road once, which has two stations but only gives one description (I believe this is because he stopped riding the Hammersmith and City Line at Royal Oak because he’d visited Paddington on the District Line).

While riding the District line, Alex doesn’t talk about Paddington other than saying ‘passing through Paddington’. He doesn’t talk about it in the Hammersmith and City Line either, which is a few more chapters later, and only discusses it when he reaches the Circle Line right at the end of the book. So what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t follow all the lines in the way that’s easy to keep track of- it almost jumps about.

Secondly, the book is mostly about his experience. While I have enjoyed that, I wanted to know more cool facts about the underground rather than a long story about Alex’s thoughts at a certain station and then ignoring others. There were plenty of stations that I wanted to know more about, but Alex just sailed on by them.

The book also rambles on a lot about completely unrelated stories. This book could be a collection of very short stories. I found that they were all too disjointed and jumbled and filled up my head too much so I couldn’t concentrate.

I did like his writing style- I liked the tone and the footnotes were funny. I really felt that Alex’s personality came through with this book, and it was fun to read about his experiences.

I haven’t finished it yet, and I’m not sure if I can. I’ve certain lines that interest me so far (Hammersmith and City- which was disappointingly short- District, Central, Circle, Metropolitan and The Mumbles Train), but dipping in and reading the Picadilly line for example, Alex heads straight from Knightsbridge to North Ealing- missing out stations that he barely mentioned. Hammersmith for example, he talks about a fan experience, nothing about why it might be named that way or the fact that there are two stations.

So I’m not sure if I’m going to finish it properly (I’ve read at least a little bit from most chapters), and I want to start reading another book- one which will take me a good while to read. I’ll post about it in December!

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