10 books to transport you to London

10 books to transport you to London

From the Victorian era to today, Musement shares ten books set in London that will temporarily transport you to the British capital.

If you’re a literature major or just an avid reader, there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself in London time and again. Not only is the English capital the backdrop a picturesque backdrop for films, but it’s also a dreamy setting for many a novel—never underestimate the transportive power of books. Here are ten of the best books set in London that are worth getting lost in while you’re hunkering down in quarantine.

1. A Week in December, Sebastian Faulks, 2009

If you’re a fan of Love Actually, then you’ll want to crack open this book, which portrays somewhat of a satirical take on contemporary London life. As the title suggests, the novel takes place over the course of one December week, beginning with the wife of a newly elected MP sorting out the seating chart for a dinner party. Throughout the book, readers meet an array of characters, many of whom are invited to the said dinner party, where the story concludes.

2. Brick Lane, Monica Ali, 2003

Nazneen, a Bangladeshi teenager, relocates to East London for an arranged marriage to a much older man, Chanu Ahmed. She doesn’t speak the language, but eventually adjusts and makes a friend. The more she gets out, the more she comes into her own and eventually falls for another man—a powerful coming of age story.

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"If God wanted us to ask questions, he would have made us men." 📚📚📚 I've been meaning to read Brick Lane by Monica Ali for literally 10 years. It was on a recommended reading list when I finished my GCSEs and I thought it sounded interesting, but didn't get around to reading it. Since then I've heard it mentioned or seen it in articles so often and thought "I really should read that", and I finally have! And it was worth the wait. 📚📚📚 'Brick Lane' is the story of Nazneen, who grows up in a village in Bangladesh then moves to London at the age of 18, after an arranged marriage to a man in his forties. The novel follows Nazneen's life for nearly 20 years as she adjusts to her new life, raises children and grows to consider her role in the world. 'Brick Lane' also follows the life of Hasina, Nazneen's sister, who remains in Bangladesh, through letters Hasina writes to Nazneen. 📚📚📚 My favourite aspect of this novel was the characterisation of some of the characters. With a less skilled writer, Chanu (Nazneen's husband) could have been entirely unsympathetic, a bumbling fool. There are aspects of his behaviour that seem ridiculous at first (to Nazneen, and therefore to the reader), but as the novel develops it's clear to see why he is the way he is, and he was actually one of the characters I felt for most by the end of the novel. I did think some of the other characters were a bit 'flat', but perhaps that's how Nazneen sees them (although in third person, 'Brick Lane' is from Nazneen's perspective). 📚📚📚 'Brick Lane' gave me an insight into a way of life and a culture which I didn't know much about, and provided a lot to think about. I found the ending so moving that I cried on my balcony in the sunshine this afternoon. 📚📚📚 #bricklane #monicaali #bookstagrammer #bookcommunity #booksofinstagram #bookstagram #booksbywomen #brilliantbooksbywomen #mybookshelf #goodreadschallenge2020

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3. Imagined London, Anna Quindlen, 2004

As a teenager, Anna Quindlen found herself returning to London time and again from her armchair, having been transported her there countless times before her first visit from countless books she cozied up to. In Imagined London, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist takes readers through a wondrous literary tour of the city—while it’s not a fiction novel, it’s an absolute must-read for English literature buffs.

4. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1892

London makes an intriguing backdrop for many a detective, so why not devour the mysteries of arguably the world’s most iconic: the one Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Join him and his sidekick, Watson, as they take on the criminals of London. The book is a tome, but there are many short stories so if the size intimidates you, you don’t have to commit to the whole thing.

5. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens, 1839

No list of books set in London would be complete without Dicken’s iconic tale of the impressionable young orphan who runs off to London. Here, he meets the cunning “Artful Dodger” and winds up working for his street gang comprised of child criminals.

6. The Crimson Petal and the White, Michael Faber, 2004

Michael Faber’s Dickensian style Victorian novel tells the story of Sugar, an intelligent prostitute whose favored by William Rackham, whose married to the naive and beautiful of Agnes. Sugar. uses her relationship with him to advance herself, helping deepen William’s pockets with her sharp business insights, and finagles her way into his home as his daughter’s nanny.

7. The Cormoran Strike Series, Robert Galbraith (2013 – present)

So, this is not exactly one book, but this series that follows London-based detective Cormoran Strike begins with “The Cuckoo’s Calling” and the author’s name is the pseudonym of the one and only J.K. Rowling.

8. London The Novel, Edward Rutherford, 2010

In a similar fashion to his novel about Paris, Edward Rutherford here tells another tale of one of the world’s most intriguing cities through storylines that span the centuries. From the invasion of Julius Caesar to the days of Chaucer to Shakespearean performances to the 20th century, the 2000 years covered are made even more enrapturing by a notable cast of characters.

9. London Fields, Martin Amis, 1989

This dark comedy/murder mystery takes place in 1999, portraying the world on the brink of nuclear war. Samson Young, a dying American writer suffering from a case of writer’s bock, Keith Talent, a con artist of sorts, and Nicola, Six, a clairvoyant who knows when and where she’s going to be murdered but doesn’t yet know who’ll commit the crime.

10. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolfe, 1925

Virginia Wolfe’s novel takes a look at a day in the London life of Clarissa Dalloway, a high society woman, and follows her as she goes about her agenda. The story covers a lot of ground, letting readers experience many of the city’s most iconic sites as they turn the pages. Told from the title character’s perspective, Mrs. Dalloway travels in and out of the present while providing insight into the intriguing woman.

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