5 Books from the 21st Century about London

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The beauty of a list about books that are about London, to read whilst in London, is that it is pretty much never ending – writers have been basing their stories on London and all its nooks and crannies for hundreds and hundreds of years, so there really is no shortage. From Charles Dickens to Shakespeare, you are sorted. However, whilst most people would acknowledge the literary value of classics like Oliver Twist, some people much prefer a story not only set in this century, but published recently. Others are so well-read that they have already been there and done that when it comes to the oldies. So, here is a list of all the books published this century for you to read about London, from the comfort of your hotel room after a dreamy meal at the Park Grand Restaurant London.

Tubing by K.A McKeagney (2018)

Though it might make your skin crawl to read this on the tube, Tubing is an erotic psychological thriller which starts – you guessed it – on London’s underground. Polly, a ‘normal’ young woman as far as anyone would guess watching her on her daily commute, works a run-of-the-mill job for a free London newspaper and has a run-of-the-mill boyfriend at home. Then, one day, she impulsively gives in to her most basic desires and kisses a beautiful, mysterious stranger on a late-night tube and just can’t shake him no matter how hard she tries – though is she really trying? This zig-zagged detour to what has been a pretty straight-pathed life so far is an excitement she has been ravenous for. However, when she sees the man again, she is horrified by the realisation it incites… This novel is fast-paced, thrilling, chilling, fulfilling. All those good things when it comes to high-paced dramatic novels and certainly not for those who are easily spooked!

Our House by Candlish Louise (2018)

Our House is a crime novel set in suburbanLondon, on Trinity Avenue in North London, to be exact. A family moves in one crisp January morning, excited about their new house. It should be a perfectly happy day for them, albeit with the kind of stress that can sometimes come with moving-day, and it is… until the person who lives there arrives home to find them moving into her house. After this, we gasp and despair at the web of lies that have been woven throughout the original house owners’ lives. It begs the harrowing question of whether anyone really knows someone as well as they think they do…

What would you do in this situation? We say head to the Park Grand Kensington, or type “Indian Afternoon Tea Near Me” into Google and numb the shock with tiny cucumber sandwiches, but we would say that, wouldn’t we?

Not Working by Lisa Owens (2016)

Our House is a crime novel set in suburbanLondon, on Trinity Avenue in North London, to be exact. A family moves in one crisp January morning, excited about their new house. It should be a perfectly happy day for them, albeit with the kind of stress that can sometimes come with moving-day, and it is… until the person who lives there arrives home to find them moving into her house. After this, we gasp and despair at the web of lies that have been woven throughout the original house owners’ lives. It begs the harrowing question of whether anyone really knows someone as well as they think they do…

A top tip for all you eager readers out there: London Book And Screen Week is taking place 9-14 March at London’s iconic Groucho Club to coincide with London Book Fair, where you can see an event with Lisa Owens in conversation with Joe Dunthorne, called “Coming of Age Cult Classics”. So, this is a bit of a triple whammy: book event in London by the person who wrote the book (which is about London) that you are currently reading, while travelling in London and making the most of Park Grand Kensington.

Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is a 21st century literary-goddess, and almost everything she writes is linked back to her home in North London and her deep understanding and ultimate love of London and the way it treats its inhabitants. White Teeth, written in 2000 and therefore the start of the century and the oldest novel this article will include, is Zadie Smith’s debut – though you would never guess it from the maturity of her writing. It follows the lives of Samad Iqbal, from Bangladesh, and Englishman Archie Jones, their time spent together in the war, and both their families’ lives in London. Seven novels, one play and two short fiction collections later, and her most recent short fiction collection, Grand Union, published in 2019, is still telling the story of people, their relationships with each other and sometimes, with London.

If you find yourself mesmerised not just by Zadie Smith’s novels, but the desire to see her mind in operation in the flesh, then keep a beady eye on her events page, because she often tours the world and will always come home to London for events:

Rocking Underground by Scarlett Sabet

Rocking Underground is a poetry collection by Scarlett Sabet, which navigates the nuances of surviving life in London and the many contradictions of living in such a full, bustling city and yet still grappling with loneliness and complicated relationships. Fans of Sabet’s work will be delighted to know that she, like Lisa Owens, will be at the London Book and Screen Week in March 2020, in a conversational event with her partner Jimmy Page – Led Zeppelin guitarist, as well as the producer of her most recent spoken-word album, Catalyst.

So, if you are looking for something to read on the tube or from the comfort of soft linen sheets in Kensington Rooms London, then pick up one of these London literary gems and travel the city twice – once in your imagination and once in the flesh.

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