I had an email from Stephanie a while back...
I'm coming to London in September and am reading many things in preparation.
Forgetting Dickens' novels for just a tick are there any books (I'm thinking novels, but I'll take any suggestions) that just embody London for you? Something that especially captures the spirit of the place?
Shall I ask the blog? I replied...
That would be FABULOUS!!
I hope you will agree that London has been looking spectacular through the Olympics, all the sights of the city on the various courses, even the rooftops on all the aerial shots seem swept and manicured, and the city displayed at every turn right down to the jumps on the equestrian course. What a party this has been and though I will be chewing my knitting today willing Tom Daley to pike and flip and twist and end up headlong into the water from ten metres up, I will also be looking forward to the promise of a Closing Ceremony to beat all Closing Ceremonies tomorrow night. Rumour is rife from Pink Floyd to the Royal Ballet to Ray Davies of The Kinks singing Waterloo Sunset.
So before London waves cheerio to the Olympics and the focus shifts to the Paralympics, and though I know Stephanie has asked for novels, and I feel sure you will all suggest plenty, my starters for ten are both non-fiction and would be as follows...
This book arrived almost the same day that Mrs KFC e mailed all the way from Canada to let me know about this brilliant book on London that she thought I might enjoy. I picked it up, and though I haven't read past the first fifty pages yet, what I have read so far has had my full attention. Craig Taylor has gathered every voice in the city between two covers, from the announcer on the London Underground, to a Guardsman at Buckingham Palace along with market traders, rickshaw riders, chefs, students, commuters et al. It feels like a true and fascinating insight into the multi-cultural city that London has become.
My second choice and a book that I love and would recommend to anyone heading London way is Badaude's London Walks . The twenty two walks, three bus rides and one boat trip are varied and unusual and all illustrated with Badaude's wonderful eye for detail and for the quirky eccentricities so often overlooked. I look at it frequently and it is easy to imagine yourself walking the streets of London as you pore over the minute details on every page, even better to walk some of them next time you are in the city.
And a very happy final Olympic weekend everyone. I don't know about you but our TV is nearing melting point and will be grateful for the respite, but thank you for joining in with the party and for bearing with the diversion from the usual here. We have a few more Port Eliot posts still to come, and then Team Middlemarch gathering over the weekend of August 25th... normal service should be resumed in September, whatever 'normal' is.
So over to you... any books that embody London for you and that you would recommend to Stephanie ... books that capture that spirit of place??
If any suggestions come in I will edit them into a list on this blog post for easy reference, and I am now thinking of loads more but you go first.
Secret London - An Unusual Guide
The Water Room by Christopher Fowler
The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
One Million Tiny Plays about Britain by Craig Taylor.
Spitalfields Life by The Gentle Author (who I met at Port Eliot festival, but keeping the faith on no pics, no ID)
Peter Ackroyd's "London the biography"
Tony Judt's The Memory Chalet
Johnson's Life of London -Boris Johnson
The Annals of London: A Year by Year Record of a Thousand Years of History by John Richardson
Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
William Boyd's 'Ordinary Thunderstorms'.
The Fields Beneath by Gillian Tindall
A Taste for Death by P.D.James
Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell
Keith Waterhouse's "Soho"
The Girls of Slender Means - Muriel Spark
Mortal Engines - Philip Reeve
Jennie - Paul Gallico
Granta issue #65 "London - The Lives of the City"
Mirosla Sasek, “This is London”
Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
Zadie Smith - White Teeth
Sebastian Faulks - A Week in December
Alan Hollinghurst - The Line of Beauty
Virginia Woolf - Mrs Dalloway
Michel Faber - The Crimson Petal and the White
John Lanchester - Mr Phillips
Sarah Waters - The Night Watch
Henry Mayhew's "London Labour and the London Poor"
London Belongs to Me - Norman Collins
Pevsner Architectural Guides to London
1966 "Companion Guide" to Lodon (John Piper)
"The Birds of the London Area" London Natural History Society
"London's Disused Underground Stations" by J E Connor
"London Illustrated Geological Walks" by E Robinson
The Quincunx - Charles Palliser
The Strange History of Buckingham Palace" by Patricia Wright
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor
Falling Slowly - Anita Brookner
Family and Friends - Anita Brookner
Strangers - Anita Brookner
Brick Lane - Monica Ali
A Kid for Two Farthings - Wolf Mankowitz
London Bridges - Jane Stevenson
Lights out for the territory - Iain Sinclair
Sorrows of the Moon - Iqbal Ahmed
London Born - Sydney Day
The World my Wilderness - Rose Macaulay
Robinson in Space - Patrick Keiller (DVD and book)
Robinson - Christopher Pettit
Journey Through a small Planet - Emanuel Litvinoff
London Fields - Martin Amis
The Lowlife - Alexander Baron
London - Elain Harwood & Andrew Saint (HMSO, Exploring england's Heritage - gazeteer of london buildings - a great UK servies by region)
Charlotte Mendelson novels
Patrick Hamilton's books (particularly Hangover Square and Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky)
Primrose Hill - Helen Falconer
Stanley & the Women.' - Kingsley Amis
White Teeth - Zadie Smith
Jack Maggs - Peter Carey
Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Spark
Novels by Leon Garfield
Sally Lockhart series by Philip Pullman
Mrs. P's Journey - Sarah Hartley.
Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch.
London A modern Babylon (Julian Temple) on BBC i-player or in cinemas now is a MUST!!!!