July 20, 2024

Books About London That Take You Through the City

Finally, for insight into teenagers in London, read Hannah Lowe’s poetry collection “The Kids,” inspired by the youngsters she taught in an inner city London school for 10 years.

What books can show me other facets of the city?

“The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper,” by Hallie Rubenhold, offers just what it says on the cover. It’s quite shocking to read how egregiously these women have been misrepresented since their murders in the 19th century. Rubenhold untangles the myths of history-making and writes with great empathy about the hardships the women endured when alive and the rampant misogyny they faced when dead.

Roger Robinson, who is originally from Trinidad, has a poetry collection, “A Portable Paradise,” that should be read for its emotional honesty and vulnerability, and for a sequence of poems about the Grenfell Tower fire, in which a public housing block in west London caught fire in 2017, killing 72 people and injuring hundreds more. It was an avoidable tragedy: The fire spread because of cladding that defied building regulations, due to government neglect. The building still stands, wrapped in protective scaffolding with green love hearts and the words “Forever in Our Hearts” at the top. Take Robinson’s book to the site and read his poems about it.

Set in south London, “Ordinary People,” a soulful novel by Diana Evans, subtly explores the web of desires and disappointments around Black British relationships, family, work and parenting. Evans’s first novel, “26a,” centers on twins from an interracial British-Nigerian family living in northwest London.

“Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day,” by Peter Ackroyd, again, is an important and entertaining corrective to the overwhelmingly heteronormative recording of British history. And in “Night Haunts: A Journey Through the London Night,” by Sukhdev Sandhu, you’ll discover the urban dwellers who work in the dark, from the avian police to the cleaners to the Thames bargers and flushers.

What writer is everyone talking about?

Isabel Waidner, and deservedly so. A German-British Londoner, they published two novels before winning the Goldsmiths Prize for experimental fiction in 2022 with “Sterling Karat Gold. ” They write about the politics of state oppression, the politics of rebellion, the politics of the imagination. Their explosive sensibility and style are as far removed from mediocre prose and middle-class manners as you can imagine. This alone is reason to read them.

If I have no time for day trips, what books could take me there instead?

There aren’t enough writers from working-class backgrounds writing novels about people from working-class backgrounds, but two outstanding Scottish storytellers have made names for themselves in recent years doing just that: Douglas Stuart, whose novels, “Shuggie Bain” and “Young Mungo,” feature young, gay, Glaswegian protagonists, and Kerry Hudson, novelist and memoirist, whose first novel, “Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma,” centers on a young girl born in Aberdeen and the women in her family. These two writers will wring out your emotions: Their writing is heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure.

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