Literary London: A Book Lover’s Guide to the City by Eloise Millar and Sam Jordison | Book Review

Literary London delves deep into the literary history of London following in the footsteps of some of the most iconic writers who have lived or visited London.

Literary London explains where to find the best literary landmarks in London with the objective to tell the stories behind the stories. We follow the likes of T.S. Eliot, Oscar Wilde, Dylan Thomas, Neil Gaiman, Will Self, Karl Marx, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Lord Byron, P.G. Wodehouse, Rudyard Kipling, Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, John Le Carre, Voltaire, Mark Twain, Emile Zola, Thomas Hardy, Doris Lessing and many others including very interesting stories about the Bloomsbury Group. There is a separate chapter on publishers and booksellers which references a famous book and one of my beloved stories, 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

I found out that George Orwell slept rough in Trafalgar Square in the 1920s and that Fyodor Dostoyevsky who visited London in July 1862 disliked the city. Dostoyevsky was shocked “with its half-naked, savage, and hungry population” and with “everyone [being] drunk” in London. He only stayed eight days in London but his experience was important enough to prompt him to dedicate the whole chapter to his adventures in England in his book, Winter Notes on Summer Impressions.

To my surprise the famous London Detective Club, a society, which included Agatha Christie and G.K.Chesterton, still exists with the current members being Ian Rankin and Val McDermid among others. There are also anecdotes about unsavoury figures like Lenin who on his visit to London occupied the same seat L13 at the old British Library building on Great Russell Street that Marx did fifty years earlier. We learn about controversial figures like Diana Mitford, one of the most notorious fascist British writers during the blackshirt era of the 1930s and 40s.

With Literary London in hand we travel across various literary genres and eras. We journey across pubs, parks, buildings with the long and complicated history. We navigate the realms of revolutionaries, romantics, spies, misfits and outcasts inhabiting the city of London between 866 and modern times.

London is portrayed as a place of inspiration, ideas, friendship and it’s a protagonist in its own right. There are many useful addresses included in the book along with maps, illustrations, fact boxes, and notes, which can help every bibliophile navigate through London streets.

It’s a wonderfully amusing, entertaining and informative guide to London that every bibliophile will definitely appreciate.

Thank you to a lovely team at Michael O’Mara Books for this enlightening book, Literary London by Eloise Millar and Sam Jordiston.

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