5 Novels That Will Transport You To London

Claire Handscombe

If you love London and can't wait for that travel corridor to be opened, here are some books to keep you going until then! For a comprehensive list of novels that brings the city alive, head to this list: 100 Must-Read Novels Set in London.

In Our Mad and Furious City, by Guy Gunaratne

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This book was one of THE big novels in the UK the year it was published, and I’m here to say it’s thoroughly deserving of the hype. The book chronicles 48 hours on a London council estate (“housing project”) from the perspective of five of its residents and makes moving poetry out of the gritty ugliness of life. It’s beautiful, moving, and important.

Lies Sleeping, by Ben Aaronovitch

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The seventh novel in the hugely popular Rivers of London series, Lies Sleeping can also be read as a standalone. If you’re into clever, witty urban fantasy and enjoy rooting for a hero to save his beloved London from all kinds of threats, this might be the series for you!

Number 11, by Jonathan Coe

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This London novel that portrays the realities of life in the 21st century features a vast and interesting cast of characters, from the ten-year-olds, Rachel and Alison, who open the novel, to Alison’s mother, who’s on a reality TV show, to the rich family for whom Rachel later nannies, and who are hiding an explosive secret. This is a novel of satire, surrealism, and social commentary.

This Lovely City, by Louise Hare

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It’s 1950 in London, and England has put out a call for labour. Lawrie Matthews, like many others, has arrived from Jamaica in response to that call. He works as a postman and plays in the jazz clubs at night, making a new home for himself and falling in love. But everything changes after he makes a horrifying discovery on Clapham Common one morning.

Ordinary People, by Diana Evans

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Diane Evans’s 2005 novel, 26a, won a ton of prizes and is a modern classic. Her latest book, Ordinary People, is a novel of domestic love, set in London and against the backdrop of Barack Obama’s historic election victory. It’s the story of two families, one reckoning with a new life and the other with a recent death. London really comes alive in this novel, and it’s a sharply observed portrait of relationships. Highly recommended.

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Washington, DC

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