Andrew Martin at The Financial Times:
Travis Elborough is the affectionate chronicler of faded Englishness. He has been described as “the hipster Bill Bryson”, and it is a mystery to some of us why he is not as well-known as Bryson. His books have so far covered the Routemaster bus, the long-playing record, and the sale of London Bridge (“the world’s largest antique”, as he put it) to a Texan millionaire.
His writing combines subtle drollery with a fantastical, Monty Python-ish strain. Early in his narrative, he takes an excursion to Versailles, an important site in the aforementioned evolution. Louis XIV, the Sun King — a “control freak in modern parlance” — arranged the planting around a central axis whose focal point was his own bedroom, and the gardens were micromanaged according to his whim: “The fountains were magnificent features. But there was only enough water to keep the ones closest to the palace at a constant spurt. The others were switched off and on as the king approached and departed, his movements closely monitored and signalled to staff, with flags waved and whistles blown in a complex system of field telegraph.”