Spike Island

Philip Hoare

It was the biggest hospital ever built. Stretching for a quarter-of-a-mile along the banks of Southampton Water, the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley was an expression of Victorian imperialism in a million red bricks, a sprawling behemoth so vast that when the Americans took it over in the Second World War, GIs drove their jeeps down its corridors.

Born out of the bloody mess of the Crimean War, rising literally out of its own foundations – its bricks made from clay excavated on the site – Netley’s hospital would serve a century’s worth of conflict before it met its own demise just one hundred years later. In Spike Island, Philip Hoare has written a biography of a building. In the process he deals with his own past, and his own relationship to its history.

Reviews of Spike Island

    • ‘Philip Hoare’s deeply personal foray into the past is a tour-de-force’Michael Bracewell, Independent on Sunday
    • ‘The story of the Royal Victoria Hospital is a fascinating one, and Mr Hoare’s book extremely valuable’Anthony Daniels, Sunday Telegraph
    • ‘Hoare develops a gothic theme that marries glamour with morbidity and runs throughout the work…His literary tones – ghostly, haunting, reminiscent of du Maurier – find their echo is Netley’s grim history…’Nicola McAllister, The Observer