That sums up my feelings about London hosting the Olympics in a couple of weeks. Part of me is looking forward being in a city that is celebrating sport (not that I have any tickets, but that would be another post in itself) – the banners are up, the torch reaches London this evening… it’s all starting to feel real. But the other part of me is wondering if it will turn out to be a complete nightmare logistics-wise for people who actually live here. The Tube stations I frequent are on the list of stations to avoid as much as possible as they’re expected to be extremely busy, buses are on diversions, everyone’s trying to figure out how to work from home… So yes, it could turn out to be fantastic and a summer to remember, or it could be one that I would prefer to forget.
Have any of you ever lived in a city that was hosting the Olympics before? Any tips on what to expect?
Anyway, to bring this back to books, I was thinking about London the other day – specifically books that are set in London. I get a secret thrill when reading books set in places I know – it’s like seeing a familiar place through other people’s eyes. But not all books do that; there are numerous historical romances that are set in London, where lip-service is paid to riding in Hyde Park and dancing at Almacks, but somehow, it doesn’t feel like the London I know and love.
Here are a few books that bring London alive for me:
Jacqueline Winspear‘s Maisie Dobbs books: These are historical mysteries set in the post-WW1 era (here’s what I wrote a few years back about the first four books). I’m not massively keen on the paranormal and psychic elements of the latter books in the series, but love the period-era details in the books. And when Maisie walks to her office in the Bloomsbury area or makes her way home, I think, yes, this is London.
Sarah Rees Brennan‘s Demon Lexicon trilogy: It’s no secret that I love these books to death, and the fact that London acts as a backdrop to some of the action is a bonus. I think THE DEMON’S SURRENDER cover is great (and not just because it’s Alan looking all moody and heroic) – the London skyline behind him sets the scene so perfectly.
Ben Aaronovitch‘s Peter Grant books: I’ve only read the first book in this gritty urban fantasy series (RIVERS OF LONDON / MIDNIGHT RIOT) so far, but what I really like about his writing is that it brings out the multicultural-ness (yes, I just made up that word) of London. And I actually learnt some fascinating facts about London rivers when reading this book. Educational entertainment
Benedict Jacka‘s Alex Verus books: As with the Peter Grant books, I’ve only (just) read the first book in the series, FATED. There is a bit of a Dresden Files feeling about this book (the blurb from Jim Butcher on the cover and an in-joke about a Chicago wizard in the first couple of pages didn’t do anything to dispel this). But a clear sense of place comes through – Alex runs a shop in Camden and a lot of the action takes place in the British Museum. In fact, this was the book that inspired me to write this post.
I’ve probably missed off quite a few books – have any books brought London to life for you? And do you feel the same way as me when reading books set in your home city?