Category Archives: Books

Literary round up 2013

book spinesWith two children, a four-day-a-week job, a blog and a myriad of chores, I find it a miracle that I actually manage to read at all. This is one of the few upsides of living in London and commuting by packed Tube – I can actually read for almost an hour each way, although sometimes this means reading a book next to someone’s armpit. I’m also in two book clubs, which meet monthly, so I hardly have a lot of time to read for myself, but I try.

This is what I liked in 2013:

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler: This is certainly not a new book and has dated slightly, but the story of a man trying to rebuild his life after the failure of his marriage and the death of his son is touching. I thought it was an excellent book – well written and with well-rounded characters who jump off the page. I will be seeking out more books by Tyler. I also blogged a review here.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron: I really enjoyed this light read about another failed marriage, which is semi-autobiographical. (I’m not sure what this says about my life with the English Husband!) Ephron manages that rare thing – to be funny about a bleak time in her life. It’s very witty and a great account about how her husband, famous journalist Carl Bernstein (Watergate saga), cheated on her with her close friend when she was about to have their second baby. Ephron wrote the screenplay to When Harry Met Sally among many other things. She was a prolific writer and blogger. I wrote about her here.

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell: A big success when it came out in 2010, O’Farrell’s story about two women separated by 50 years is well worth a read. One woman is coming into her own in 1950s Soho with a group of artistic friends. Another is coping with the aftermath of a traumatic birth and how her baby has inextricably altered her life. O’Farrell convincingly ties these lives together.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: I’ve read almost all of Patchett’s books, mostly because I totally fell in love with her novel Bel Canto. Not all of her books have equalled this one, with an exception being The Magician’s Assistant (also highly recommended). But I did enjoy State of Wonder, a story that takes a young doctor to the Amazon on a quest. The journey there and the things she encounters completely alters her life and makes her reconsider what is important. It also has a very good twist.

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge: Despite the rather jolly title, this is not a book I would recommend if you are feeling depressed. The narrative starts off ordinarily enough – a girl in 1950 Liverpool is hoping to find fame in a theatre company’s Christmas production of Peter Pan. What you learn about her life is at once shocking and profound.

Regeneration by Pat Barker: Although novels about the First World War are about two a penny, this one is different. It focuses on the psychological aspect of the war, since the story is set in a hospital for traumatized soldiers. With the 100-year anniversary of WWI in the new year, this novel (the first in a trilogy) will leave you with a lasting impression you’re not likely to get from other books about the war.

The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon: An autobiographical book about a boy who grows up in Sarajevo. Hemon moves to the United States during the Bosnian War and writes very movingly about being an immigrant coming to America, in deceptively simple prose. A chapter on his daughter’s illness is also one of the very best I have ever read. You will struggle to read this without shedding a tear.

And the books that didn’t quite do it:

May We Be Forgiven  by A. M. Homes: I really wanted to love this one and it was certainly top of my reading list once I had a bit of time to plough through its 500 pages. It gets off at a blistering pace with a fatal car accident, an affair and a very shocking event; you do wonder if Homes will be able to sustain the momentum and suspense. She can’t. I tried hard to like the characters and particularly the ending, but the book lost it for me some 200 pages off the end. I did finish it, but I was left feeling disappointed. I liked her short stories better – Things You Should Know.

Gone Girl by Gillian Reynolds: Most people read this huge bestseller before me, so I kind of knew what I was letting myself in for: a seemingly perfect couple are not what they seem, with the wife disappearing halfway through the book and the husband suspected of foul play. Like the book above, the novel has a very promising beginning and I was instantly hooked. Unfortunately, I also felt like the ending of the book let it down. I struggled to finish it, because I couldn’t care about the characters by the end. It hasn’t put me off seeking out more by Reynolds, though, so I’ll be hoping to read Dark Places in 2014.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce: This book had a lot of positive press in the UK and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, one of the biggest literary awards of the year. Like the title suggests, Harold Fry goes on a journey, walking 600 miles from Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed because he receives a letter from a dying friend. He thinks that by walking he might be able to save her. I was not totally convinced by the story, which I found a little cloying and contrived at times. I had high hopes, but just didn’t love it.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James: The master crime writer gives us a murder-mystery sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I am a huge Austen fan and a lover of crime fiction, so I thought this would be a sure-fire hit. I was wrong. There are much better books out there by P.D. James. Death Comes to be Pemberley was just adapted for BBC One this Christmas season. I didn’t watch it, but perhaps the TV version was better than the book.

What I’m looking forward to reading in 2014:

  • Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – from the author of The Secret History comes this highly praised book.
  • Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – if I can ever find the time! This door stopper of a book won the Booker Prize in 2013. Catton is the youngest ever recipient of the prize and, yes, I’m pretty awed by her talent (and a little jealous).
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – a refreshing take on what it means to be a mother and a woman, told through a series of letters, emails, snippets and IM exchanges. Very modern and apparently very funny.
  • Stoner by John Williams – the greatest novel you’ve never read, according to London’s Sunday Times. This was a Christmas present from the English Husband. I also got him a copy for Christmas too. Great minds think alike. Published in 1965, this novel has been rediscovered and was named book of the year by a top bookseller in the UK.
  • And anything at all by my very favourite short story writer, Alice Munro, who deservedly won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2013. Congrats, Alice!

If you have any books you’re really looking forward to reading, I’d love to hear what they are.

To all my readers, Happy New Year! And happy reading in 2014…

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A blog about blogging

Heartburn dust jacket

This is not an endorsement of Heartburn, although I liked it

Nora Ephron’s mother (a writer) famously told her that ‘everything is copy’. It was her contention that nothing at all is sacred when it comes to putting words on the page.

Ephron, a once successful screenwriter whose credits include When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail, liked to repeat this quote.

In fact, she followed her mother’s advice when writing Heartburn, a semi-autobiographical novel about her adulterous ex-husband, Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein. In Heartburn, Ephron writes about the breakdown of her marriage while she’s heavily pregnant with her second child. She also somehow manages to make this tragic episode – which resulted in a divorce and premature delivery – hilariously funny.

Her ex-husband, of course, wasn’t very amused. Ephron died of acute myloid leukemia in June 2012.

The idea that everything is copy is nothing new. Journalists recycle bits about their life every day, some more than others. If you have a column, the more likely it is that you will plough the rich soil of your life for material. Sometimes you might experience drought.

I’ve been there. My blog is not so much something useful as something personal. I don’t blog about cutting-edge products or publish exciting recipes for fussy toddlers. I don’t have a small business to promote or a book about to published. I don’t test out beauty products or write about the latest fashion trends. If I’m occasionally fashionable it’s purely by accident.

Mostly, this blog is about me. So why share it with strangers? It does feel like I am opening up a diary for the amusement of others. Sometimes my readers might not even be amused.

Contrary to what the blog might you lead you to believe, I am a private person. I’ve never even had a Facebook account.

This has made me wonder about how blogging fits into my lifestyle. I sometimes feel like I am picking over the bones of my life looking for ‘copy’. It’s not unlike what carrion birds do to their prey. You could say I’m a bit of a cannibal, devouring episodes of my own life.

Sometimes this is vaguely uncomfortable – and I’m not always totally honest. Without a cloak of absolute anonymity, who would choose to be brutally honest? I hold things back on occasion. I fear the future. Will I look back on this and wince? Even worse, will my children?

Bloggers have been called many things by members of the mainstream press or even by other bloggers. We are self-interested and vain. We are self-publicists. We add nothing to debate and mostly write a lot of tripe. We just want validation and attention.

Some of this might be true some of the time. I don’t think it’s entirely true of me.

So why do I blog? I do it because I like to write. Occasionally, I think it might spark an idea for something. This is also a record. While it might not always accurately record my feelings, it’s as close as I’ve got to a scrapbook of my children’s early years.

On days when I delude myself, I think this blog might lead to discovery. Someone will find my blog one day and offer me money to write some opinionated nonsense. I don’t think this often. I’m hardly a real-life Carrie Bradshaw, agonizing over her columns while sitting in my trendy New York apartment.

I am also someone who spent a whole year unemployed recently, an experience that left me feeling fairly useless. I discovered that plenty of jobs in the media, where I have floundered for the last ten+ years, ask for a social media profile.

This means you tweet on a regular basis; you have followers (hopefully more than a handful) who hang on your every syllable; you know how to negotiate Facebook to find out personal details about someone; and, yes, you know how to blog. Blogging, as it turns out, can be quite useful if you are looking for a job where people might expect you to write.

So here I am, blogging about myself. Still looking for a job (disclosure: I have something that is temporary). Still feeling a bit like a social media outsider. Still wondering if this blog is practical more often than it is painful.

Everything is copy, Ephron said. She also happened to be a blogger. But she hid her illness – she was diagnosed in 2006 – from most people and chose not to write about it. And now I wonder why.

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The Kindle revisited

Book cover

I got an intro, a glossary and illustrations. Kindle readers got nothing but electronic text.

Since the English Husband boycotted Amazon because of a small matter of not paying their fair share of corporate tax in the UK (along with the illustrious likes of Starbucks and Google), I’ve inherited the unloved Kindle.

The Kindle was a controversial Christmas present from a year ago that never sat well with the Husband, who held it responsible for the destruction of the printed book and the bookshop. These things, I would argue, are debatable, although there are plenty of rather depressing statistics about the end of bookshops.

According to one statistic – and there are many – the sale of consumer ebooks in the UK were up 366% in 2011. They are likely to be even higher now. Meanwhile, the sales of printed books are down year on year. In one article in a national newspaper in this country, it said the sales of printed novels in the first four weeks of 2012 fell by a over a million copies compared to the same month a year ago.

As a book lover, I must admit to being sceptical about the Kindle (read my first Kindle blog), but not because I don’t like Amazon or what they represent. I am American and generally greet success happily and without too much suspicion. The English, however, are a bit sniffy about it.

What I don’t like about Kindle derives mainly from how I use books and my love for print. I suggested reading The Diary of a Nobody for my book club. It’s a short and amusing story of Victorian life, mainly centred on one lower-middle-class family and their rather eccentric friends and acquaintances. It’s often referred to in other books and has been a gap in my reading until now.

You can get this book free on Kindle because the copyright has expired. This has generally been regarded as one of the great pluses of the Kindle and it’s certainly an argument I have used to champion it. On this occasion, I decided to buy the book because it was only £1.99 and I figured I might need the physical book on hand for a discussion.

The thing about classics is that they generally have a glossary at the back, which tells clueless Americans like me about certain phrases, expressions and trivia that I wouldn’t otherwise know. There was also a lengthy introduction to The Diary of a Nobody (not essential) but which made for an interesting reference point.

The Kindle readers in my group didn’t get any of this and they also lost out on the very critical illustrations in the book, which were sketched by the author’s brother and added substantially to it.

All in all, the Kindle readers lost out hugely. Okay, they kept their £1.99 but they really didn’t get the best from the book and probably skipped over the passages they didn’t understand but which were explained in the glossary.

This wouldn’t be the case for many books – modern novels don’t often have pictures and glossaries. But I learned a lesson. Sometimes it’s better to pay for things you can get for free. Better yet, get it from your local bookshop.

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Book review: Londoners

LondonersI have this love/hate relationship with London. I have days when I love this city and I feel like it loves me back. Those are usually the rare days when I feel elated by the thought of the spring and summer ahead, when the transport works, when I walk through its maze of streets and feel awed by its history.

The rest of the time I think that London asks too much of me. It wants, it takes, it frustrates, it leaves me angry and exasperated. ‘Why do I continue to live here?’ I often ask myself. One book has gone some way to answering this question eloquently.

Londoners, by Craig Taylor, is as diverse as the city. The book is a series of interviews with real people, all of whom either live in England’s capital or have had a brush with it. There are interviews with a city planner, a nurse, a few taxi drivers, artists, actors, market traders, a dominatrix and even a Wiccan priestess.

The interviews are illuminating and memorable, and I came away from this book feeling like I knew London just that little bit more. There was the day I was introduced to Emma Clarke, the voice of the London Underground. I was reading her interview on the way to work on the tube, feeling tired and bleary-eyed. Suddenly I hear the familiar voice announce the next station and I realize it’s Emma, the girl I was reading about. It was a surreal moment. I can’t get on the tube without thinking of her now.

Or there was the transsexual from Balham who scavenged for food. I learned, to my great surprise, that transsexuals are obsessed with electronics, old radios, old motorcycles and old cars. A lot of them are trainspotters. Who would have thought that?

I laughed at an interview with a former Londoner, who was glad to have escaped from the city’s clutches. In him I recognized some of myself. Speaking from Cape Town, Simon says: ‘Most of my friends from university had gone to London around the same time as me, and everybody had left except for two people – they stayed and they love it there. These are two of my closest friends in the world but they are both somewhere along the autistic spectrum. What do they call it? Apserger’s Syndrome. London is a city full of Asperger’s people.’

I also loved an interview with an artist who collected human hair from the underground for a piece of art. He was talking about all this hair that collects in tube tunnels, something which I have always noticed with disgust. Immediately I am thinking of all the hair I see in the tunnel that connects the Central Line to the Victoria Line at Oxford Circus. A moment later he mentions this very same thing and I get ridiculously excited about it. It’s a moment of recognition. I was also, quite fittingly, on the tube when I read that passage.

I don’t think you need to know London well to get something from this book. Ultimately, this book is about humans living in a big cosmopolitan city. But I think Londoners will certainly get something deeper and will relate to it on another level.

I found myself talking to people about this book, mentioning the little bits of trivia I learned. You don’t have to read it all at once, but can also dip in and out of it. At 400 pages, it’s fairly dense, but I thought it read pretty quickly.

London is a city that often defies logic or understanding, but this gets close to underpinning the heart and soul of this ever-shifting and yet timeless place.

Did I fall in love with London again, like I did so many years ago as a young 22-year-old? Not exactly. But I fell in love with these stories and lives that miraculously felt both alien and familiar to mine.

I’m still not sure what I’m doing here sometimes. There are days, even weeks, when I long for something else (a bit of sun, maybe). This book did make me see the city through the eyes of others – and that has given me a new perspective on where I live, which could just get me through this very long winter.

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Book review: Nothing to Envy

I don’t often read non-fiction. I suspect it’s because I have always used books as a means of escape, in the same way some people watch soap operas. I like losing myself in a good story with memorable characters. Of course, what I am forgetting is that non-fiction can be just as good, even better, than anything an author can dream up.Nothing to Envy dust jacket

And so it is with Nothing to Envy, a non-fiction account of people who lived in North Korea and later defected. The story had me gripped from the beginning.

I am ashamed to say that my knowledge of North Korea is extremely limited. I know the country is plunged into darkness every evening because of a lack of electricity; I know it’s the last true Communist regime on the planet; I know it had a crazy dictator as head of state, who largely kept his citizens in a state of precarious poverty. When Kim Jong-il died recently, I was aware that he passed control of the country to his young son, of whom the world knows almost nothing.

The book is an eye-opener. It’s part love story, part history lesson and part tragedy. It’s also, ultimately, a story about the courage and resilience of ordinary human beings living in extraordinary circumstances.

In the 1990s famine took hold of North Korea, a country of 23 million. The collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea’s old ally, caused the creaky economy to totally disintegrate, plunging the country into ruin. Journalist Barbara Demick, who wrote Nothing to Envy after extensively interviewing North Koreans for the Los Angeles Times, estimates that between 600,000 to 2 million North Koreans died as a result of starvation by 1998. The numbers are hard to verify because the North Korean government did not allow starvation to be stated as a cause of death.

Against this grim, desperate backdrop, Demick weaves the story of several people who lived through the worst of the famine and who eventually defected to China and South Korea despite threat of severe punishment. It’s incredible to read in detail how they survived in an oppressive and cruel regime.

It’s also astounding to learn how much these people were duped by their government and led to believe that they were living in the greatest country on earth. Because of the intense propaganda, many could not even dream of how different life could be just across the border in China. All of them were fed lies about how people lived in other parts of the world.

In one passage I am struck by how a young doctor, defecting to China, comes across a bowl of stale white rice and scraps of meat left on the ground of a farm. In her constant state of starvation, she cannot comprehend why the food is left unattended; she hasn’t seen white rice in years. It dawns on her that it’s for a dog. It’s then the harsh truth hits her – dogs in China eat better than doctors in North Korea.

I am most drawn to the story of Mi-ran, a young teenager in the late 1980s, who would probably be about my age today. She falls in love with a boy outside her social class. Their love, were it to be discovered, would be forbidden and could have serious consequences. In the nine years they dated they did nothing more than hold hands. As close as they were – they would talk for hours when they could see each other, about twice a year – it’s a sad truth that not even they dared to confess their serious doubts to each other about the world they were living in.

How different life is for me. I was waiting for the bus the other day and the Chatterbox announces suddenly: ‘Mommy, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I thought I wanted to be a tube or a bus driver, but I might want to work in a zoo or be a vet or maybe I could be a doctor or a teacher.’ Mi-ran becomes a teacher in her twenties and watches as her students starve to death before her eyes.

I thought, how lucky it is that we live here, whether ‘here’ is the United States or the UK. As much as I get frustrated by modern life and running myself ragged every day, I am incredibly lucky and so is my child. She can dream about what she wants to be, even if she never realizes her ambitions. It takes an outstanding book like Nothing to Envy to make me realize how many children can’t even contemplate what we take for granted.

Does anyone have any more suggestions for non-fiction books worth reading?

I can recommend two more:

  • Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption (Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton and Erin Torneo)
  • If This Is A Man (Primo Levi)

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To Kindle or not to Kindle

I just finished my first book on Kindle and the experience hasn’t made me want to throw the electronic device in the bath. I’m still rather ambivalent about wanting to take it to bed, though. I know some purists wouldn’t touch this piece of capitalist evil; they’d rather starve themselves of books and go hungry for the rest of their lives.

I’m not that politically extreme, although I used to talk about how I thought anything other than the solidity of a book in your hands was just plain unsatisfying and vaguely traitorous to booksellers.

My moral climbdown came at Christmas when I was looking for something to buy the English Husband. I had an Amazon gift certificate lying around, and I thought I might as well use it for something useful. More importantly, I’d be buying something that he wasn’t actually paying for himself, since I haven’t had any money of my own for over a year.  He’s a man, he likes gadgets, I reasoned. He’s a man, he’ll want to save money, I concluded.

Kindle Touch

Not quite the same as a book you hold in your hands, but I might be able to get used to it

You’d have thought I handed him a loaded grenade, wrapped innocently in Christmas paper, instead of a Kindle. ‘What’s this?’ he asked, shooting me a skeptical, confused look. ‘I thought you’d never buy One of These.’ Christmas makes people do desperate things, I thought.

Instead I said, ‘I changed my mind. I thought you might like it. I put some books on it for you.’ This was a lie: I couldn’t figure out how to get books loaded onto the Kindle and they were apparently floating around in a cloud somewhere. I won’t go into the tawdry details, but buying the Kindle with my father’s Amazon Prime account created a huge number of problems. For quite a while, the Kindle kept addressing my English husband ‘Manuel’.

‘I just don’t know if I want it,’ he said disdainfully. We’ve always been a bit too honest when the Christmas presents don’t make us spontaneously hum ‘Jingle Bells’.

The Kindle never got returned, but it sat – untouched and unloved – for the rest of the Christmas period. I later found out, over Skype, that the English Husband had used it ‘a few times’.

I decide to try reading The Hunger Games on the Kindle. I find holding the device is comfortable. Reading the type is no problem, either, and it’s all adjustable to your own taste. But I don’t like the fact that you can’t easily flip back to pages you might want to read again. In an old-fashioned book you always have a vague idea of where certain events occurred; with a Kindle it feels like you are lost in a Black Hole. It’s how an astronaut must feel when he first observes the infinity of space.

Occasionally, the damn thing doesn’t flip to the right page and I need to flip back and there can be a slight lag; it inexplicably skips about 10 pages another time, and I spend five minutes trying to find my place; and I really don’t like entering a code every time I want to pick up the book after I’ve put it down. Then it runs out of battery, just as I was getting addicted. I let out a groan. This definitely wouldn’t happen with a physical book. There are also passages that are highlighted, but I’m not sure why, so I ignore them.

I like the feeling of a book in your hands and the satisfaction you get when you see how much you have read. There is also the smell of books – old books have that slightly musty smell along the crease. It reminds me of time. I just don’t get this warmth from a Kindle, and I don’t spend time examining the cover. But if I was going on holiday I would probably want to take it along with me. And I suppose it could be useful if you want to read Fifty Shades of Grey and don’t want anyone else to know.

What does anyone else think? Any readers out there want to wade in with an opinion?

As a footnote, I liked The Hunger Games and wished I had thought of this plot myself. Suzanne Collins has hit a goldmine with the ultimate crossover novel. I’ve had to stop myself from reading the second book right away, I was that addicted. I’m a sucker for a love story interspersed with killing and violence. Not sure what that says about me.

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Fictional London

I’ve been thinking a great deal about London. In less than a week I will board a plane that will take me there for the start of a new life. Even in fiction, the city follows me. In the last few months I have read three books where London has been the setting. You can even argue that the capital sometimes functions as a character in these books, because it has a temperament and a voice.

London gets under your skin. No wonder so many authors choose to make it the setting of their books. But a writer who chooses a recognizable place for the setting of their novel also takes huge risks. The reader might not judge the depiction believable. Or it can add a layer of self-consciousness. Instead of losing yourself in a book, you can find yourself asking too often, ‘Does this ring true?’ It’s hard to write about something as large and complex as London without reducing it to a stereotype or a cliche.

Capital dust jacket

A cover of John Lanchester’s latest novel about London – it’s a portrait of the city as seen from eight different characters

I sort of found this in the latest book I read, My Special Relationship, by Douglas Kennedy. It’s probably the kind of book you would pick up at an airport and read on the plane, which means I’ve read it a couple of weeks too early.

The story centers around an American journalist living in Cairo, who finds herself moving to London after falling in love with a British colleague. She gets pregnant and discovers that her new husband is a cheat and a cad; he abandons her after a serious bout of postpartum depression and tries to take their child away from her, claiming that she is an unfit mother. This is hardly uplifting stuff. While I breezed through the briskly paced novel, I found myself getting stuck on the bits where London and the English get mentioned.

Here’s one sentence that popped out at me: ‘The great difference between Yanks and Brits was that Americans believed that life was serious but not hopeless … whereas the English believed that life was hopeless but not serious.’ I laughed at this and then wondered how true it was. Ultimately, I decided there was a grain of truth in there and the comment seemed well observed.

London appears in the story in all its usual ordinariness: the angry White Van Man; the dreary weather; the Pakistani shop owner who is permanently pissed off; the NHS; the obsession with property; the obsession with class; the excessive prices; the snootiness; the obsequious regard people have for traditions; the neurotic middle class. I recognized all of these and yet couldn’t help but feel that there was something a little too obvious about it all. I think the word I’m looking for is contrived.

I felt equally disappointed when I read Sebastian Faulks’ A Week in December. London featured prominently in this book, but it also felt a bit like it was trying too hard. All the usual suspects of modern Britain were there: an arrogant, workaholic banker who believed in nothing but making money; a professional football player with a beautiful Eastern European girlfriend; a disillusioned youth who smokes too much pot; a would-be terrorist; a newly rich Asian family; an American woman who drinks too much; a Tube driver; and a disgruntled book reviewer.

I have loved much of Faulks’ previous novels, especially Birdsong and Engleby, but this one seemed a little off. I couldn’t care about the characters, and I wanted to skip the pages which featured the banker. As well researched as I think the novel was, I did not get sucked in.

I’d be interested to read John Lanchester’s new novel about London on the brink, Capital. The plot focuses on a single street and how what happens there mirrors larger tensions in the city in the modern age. In an interview in Newsweek, Lanchester says, ‘The thing you can’t do in fiction is unlikeliness. In a novel it has to feel true. London’s full of things that don’t feel true but just happen to be true.’

I agree with this comment and maybe that’s why it’s so hard to capture the city in fiction without tipping into the hackneyed. So much of what happens in London doesn’t feel like it could be true, but it is. As the old saying goes, ‘Truth is stranger than fiction.’ London eludes something which tries too hard to pin it down.

Here are some books I’ve read which are set in London. Can you add to my list? I’d love to read other people’s suggestions, particularly if you liked what you read.

  • A Week in December
  • 84 Charing Cross Road
  • One Day
  • My Special Relationship
  • The Night Watch
  • Tipping the Velvet
  • Brick Lane
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • White Teeth
  • High Fidelity
  • A Little Princess
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Great Expectations
  • Laura Blundy
  • Hawksmoor
  • Her Fearful Symmetry
  • Mrs Pettigrew Lives For a Day
  • The Crimson Petal and the White

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