In this highly personal encounter with his native city Nicholas Murray blends literary descriptions of Liverpool across the centuries with his own memories of a 1960s Liverpool childhood to create an original and nuanced portrait of the character of a remarkable city. The result is a rich mosaic built up from a range of literary sources: quirky eighteenth- and nineteenth-century guide books, songs, poems, reminiscences, sermons, novels, letters, histories, travelogues, political tracts, autobiographies, essays, journalism, official reports, and jokes. This is a book about how Liverpool has been seen by others but it is also a personal and sometimes moving record of growing up in Liverpool in the 1950s and 1960s, exploring in an often light-hearted way what it means to be ‘Scouse’, never forgetting that De Quincey’s “many-languaged town” is a cosmopolitan, multi-racial seaport with an often tough history of poverty, industrial strife, migration, but, above all, humour.
The LUP have made an excellent job of the production: well-spaced, clear type-face, enjoyable illustrations; “added value” as we have to say nowadays, so add it to your collection.
Newsletter of the Liverpool Group of the Victorian Society
...is well written and offers some decently-researched contentualising of the place that was for many years Britain's second city and with a port to rival London.
Planet, Issue 190
combining literary anecdotes from those who have disembarked there, such as Daniel Defoe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, with his own reminiscnces of his post-war Catholic childhood. He writes unflinchingly about the infamous "Africa Trade", conveys what it means to be Scouse and emphasises that Liverpool should not be associated wit "thievery" (a label that is increasingly old hat as eneneration under the European Capital of Culture banner continues), but as a place rich in diversity and creativity.
Christina Borg, Sunday Times
Nicholas Murray’s book is particularly strong on the traditions of radicalism and socialism that have marked Liverpool for more than 200 years. Murray’s extremely entertaining book doesn’t forget the humour of the place. While this might sometimes reinforce the cliché of the feckless Liverpudlian, it remembers a hard history and is knowingly self-lacerating.
William Palmer, The Independent
The writer Nicholas Murray, a teenager in 1967, recalls being bussed in to see it from his school in Crosby. “I have never forgotten the impression it made,” he writes in his book So Spirited a Town, “of newness and modernity and light.” Like Murray, I was raised a Catholic and I associate it, like him, with shadows and secrets: poorly lit Victorian churches, low-wattage votive candles, knee-knackering confessionals with the priest’s face a pinkish blur behind the grille.