Posts tagged ‘London’

January 31, 2017

First Love by Gwendoline Riley

by Team Riverside

Hardback, £12.99 – Out Nowgwedoline-riley-first-love

The fifth novel from the woefully underappreciated young British genius Gwendoline Riley might be her best one yet. First Love is narrated by Neve, a thirty-something writer who lives in London with her older husband Edwyn. As she combs over her past – friendships, courtships, hateships, love – and the choices that have borne her here, Neve paints a sentence-perfect picture of a testing literary life and a relationship that lurches queasily from cloying tenderness to wince-inducing cruelty. It’s a short but perfectly measured book in which every line pops and buzzes and sings. “Considering one’s life requires a horribly delicate determination, doesn’t it?” begins the novel’s blistering third and final act; “To get to the truth, the heart of the trouble.” This is urgent, gorgeously stylish, devastating new fiction that does just that: gets to the truth, and cuts to the heart. It’s a masterpiece.

Review by Stuart

October 18, 2016

Serious Sweet, by A L Kennedy

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Jonathan Cape, £17.99, out nowa-l-kennedy-serious-sweet

Funny, angsty, unconventionally romantic…  A L Kennedy’s Booker-longlisted novel is very readable.  Meg is a bankrupt accountant, living in Lewisham, trying to stay sober and working for an animal sanctuary (there is an excellent dog in this book).  Jon is a senior civil servant who hates his Government job and most of his colleagues.  He is troubled by things he is asked to do but appears stuck.  Both characters are trying to do their best in current day London, a city which can feel dangerous and uncaring.  But will their separate stories collide during the 24 hours covered by the book, and if so how?

Serious Sweet feels completely current, and the frequent stabs of humour reflect Kennedy’s stand-up experience.  There is enough bitterness to make the sweetness stand out.  This is just what you’d expect from this thoughtful writer, who always engages fearlessly with contemporary concerns.  I recommend reading the book at a gallop, to get the most out of the single day structure.

For collectors of London novels, this is a must-have.  Wholly convincing instances of kindness to strangers, often on London’s public transport, are recounted.  The unexpected village nook, Shepherd Market in Mayfair, is clearly inspirational for novelists at the moment, as it also stars in Francesca Kay’s excellent The Long Room (https://www.faber.co.uk/9780571322527-the-long-room.html).   Kennedy also gives us the best description of the new London skyscrapers anywhere.  It is possibly worth reading the whole book just for this.

I’ll always take a chance on reading A L Kennedy, author of the funniest short story I’ve ever read (The Mouseboks Family Dictionary, in her collection Now That You’re Back – http://www.a-l-kennedy.co.uk/book/now-that-youre-back/).  It still makes my cry with laughter.

Life is not perfect, or sometimes even tolerable, but there can be more chances.

Review by Bethan

March 1, 2016

Ten Days, by Gillian Slovo

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Canongate, £14.99, out 3 MarchGillian Slovo TEN DAYS

Martin Luther King said that “riots are the language of the unheard”. Developed from Slovo’s successful 2011 verbatim play The Riots at the Tricycle theatre, this readable novel offers multiple voices and a wholly convincing and gripping anatomy of how a London riot happens. It is a scorching summer, and on a fictional South London estate a series of incidents involving the police trigger rioting. We follow the stories of Cathy and her family and friends, who are resident on the estate; Peter, the Home Secretary; and Joshua, the brand new head of the Metropolitan Police. Politics, people and police all collide over ten days, and things may not be what they seem.

Ten Days reads like a thriller, and is more complex and nuanced than you might expect, giving genuine insights into the challenges and motivations of the characters. Slovo deals fearlessly with issues of class, race, poverty and power.  The plot rolls out relentlessly, leaving the reader desperate to find out what happens to key characters. Slovo thanks senior police officers, among others, in her acknowledgements and certainly the account of the police experience feels authentic.

It is a properly London novel, and a worthwhile addition to the literature of London disorder and violence. This may be why it has been chosen for London Cityread 2016 (http://www.cityread.london/ten-days/).  I stayed up far too late finishing it and suffered the next day as a result, but it was worth it.

Review by Bethan

February 10, 2016

London Fog: the Biography, by Christine L. Corton

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Harvard University Press, £22.95, out nowChristine L Corton LONDON FOG

This very readable history of London fog was a surprise hit this winter. Beautifully illustrated, with colour pictures well integrated into the text, Corton provides not only a good summary of why fogs happened and why they stopped but also gives an erudite account of how they affected people’s lives (and deaths).

Cultural responses to the phenomenon are explored in detail. It’s no surprise to find Whistler, Turner and Dickens here, but I was delighted to be introduced to Rose Maynard Barton and Yoshio Markino.

The book is stuffed with good London anecdotes and unusual images, which make it an excellent London gift. One of my favourites is the photo of a goalie struggling to see the pitch – let alone the ball – at a Spurs match in 1945, when opponents Moscow Dynamo were accused of fielding 12 men while the visibility was poor. They had also chosen the referee, apparently, and he refused to stop the match…

If you are already thinking about climate change, and how human behaviour can influence weather for the good or bad, this is a useful and not too heavy addition to your reading list. It is one of the several excellent new books on weather and nature this year (for more examples, come and see our display table on the top floor – we particularly like Thunder and Lightning too).

Review by Bethan

January 10, 2016

Disclaimer: Renee Knight

by Andre

Disclaimer RENEE KNIGHTDisclaimer is yet another book being marketed with comparisons to Gone Girl on the cover. In fact, this clever debut set in London and Spain has its own distinctive style and deliciously sinister concept. When Catherine Ravenscroft and her husband downsize, she finds an unfamiliar book by her bedside just as she’s settling into a new chapter in her life. To her horror, the story of The Perfect Stranger is apparently her own: a 20-year-old secret about the tragic Spanish holiday she’d tried to forget. Its lurid plot details a holiday seduction by a married woman who’s also a bad mother – a deadly combination to appear in print. To underline the mysterious author’s baleful intentions, the standard disclaimer is scored through with red ink: any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is definitely not a coincidence.

Catherine is an award-winning documentary maker; perhaps this professional woman who charms her way into other people’s lives deserves this fictional intrusion into her privacy. Disclaimer’s dual narrative pits her against disgraced teacher and widower Stephen Brigstocke, who discovers a fiction manuscript by his wife that reveals his family’s fatal connection to Catherine. When he self-publishes and carefully distributes The Perfect Stranger, Catherine has to fight to regain control of her life – and her story – as the poisonous prose suggests a reckoning is coming. Knight is adept at creating suspense as the gradual revelation of family secrets builds to a shocking denouement in the Spanish sun. Disclaimer is a superior psychological thriller shot through with cruelty, tragedy and insights into the artful nature of fiction, though perhaps not best suited as a beach read.

August 9, 2015

Top 10 Fiction and Non-Fiction: August 2015

by Team Riverside

Harper Lee GO SET A WATCHMANLena Dunham NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL

No surprise this month – Harper Lee is back, back, back. The holiday reading season has also revived several titles including The Girl on the Train, which benefited from a Radio 4 adaptation. Incidentally, Go Set a Watchman is not the only literary sequel in town: The Meursalt Investigation is an Algerian writer’s companion novel to The Outsider, set 70 years after the Camus classic.

Top 10 Fiction

1 Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
2 The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
3 How to Be Both – Ali Smith
4 Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The First Bad Man – Miranda July
7 The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell
8 The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters
9 Curtain Call – Anthony Quinn
10 The Meursalt Investigation – Kamel Daoud

Bubbling under: Wake Up, Sir! – Jonathan Ames

Top 10 Non-Fiction

1 Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham
2 Gut: The Inside Story of our Body’s Most Underrated Organ – Giulia Enders
3 The Churchill Factor – Boris Johnson
4 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari
5 Think Like an Artist – Will Gompertz
6 Yes Please – Amy Poehler
7 London: A Travel Guide Through Time – Matthew Green
8 The Opposite of Loneliness – Marina Keegan
9 Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own – Kate Bolick
10 London Thames Path – David Fathers

Bubbling under: How We Are – Vincent Deary

March 21, 2015

A London Year

by Andre

Paperback now available – £12.99

A LONDON YEAR365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals and Letters – compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison

“With Thelma to the George Inn, Southwark, for a lunch of steak-and-kidney pie, cherry pie and beer. Expected hordes of American tourists but found only English, including three young men with posh accents who went through a repertoire of advert slogans, radio catchphrases and anecdotes about cricket, bloodsports and motors, even calling beer ‘ale’.” – Peter Nichols, Diary, 16 June, 1971

Part of the pleasure of this anthology of diary entries (one or more for each day of the year) is discovering the familiar from a distance. So for Southwark residents like us, there’s playwright Peter Nichols on a certain type of tourist in Borough High Street 44 years ago. Or how about the Quaker merchant Peter Briggins on the retail opportunities of the frozen Thames during the Great Freeze (21 January, 1716):

“Afternoon I went to London Bridge & saw booths & shops as farr as the Temple but they say there is booths to Chelsey, & below Bridge from about the Tower booths & many huts & people crossed over. There was they say 2 oxes roasted.”

With the capital as the changing backdrop, this is a remarkable portrait of London penned by more than 200 diarists, including Samuel Pepys, Kenneth Williams, Alan Bennett, Mary Shelley, James Boswell, Virginia Woolf and George Gissing. From the 16th century to the 21st, it’s an eyewitness account of everyday life that takes in grisly deaths in Tudor times, Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, anti-Vietnam war protests, World War I Zeppelin raids and Derek Jarman’s night out in Soho.

October 27, 2012

London Hidden Interiors

by Andre

Special Price: £35

THIS time last year we began excitedly exploring Panoramas of Lost London (still available at the special discount price of £25) and now we’re revelling in London Hidden Interiors. This sumptuous volume will appeal to anyone who loves London and feels a frisson of excitement at the idea of entering a hidden door and marvelling at the conserved architectural heritage inside.

Historian and heritage expert Philip Davies invites you on a tour of 180 of the capital’s best conserved interiors that are either rarely seen or little known. Unusual, odd and eccentric locations are featured in a stunning collection of 1,700 contemporary colour photographs that capture both the architectural detail and the unique sense of each of these conserved interiors. They range from the Speaker’s House and Lord Chancellor’s Residence, Lambeth Palace and 10 Downing Street to the Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, Aldwych Underground Station (closed in 1994) and the Sherlock Holmes pub. Of course, architect Sir John Soane has a number of impressive Georgian interiors in this volume, including his maze of a home (now a marvellous museum) in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

London Hidden Interiors is available at the special price of £35 – £5 off the RRP. Click below for a gallery of pages from the book.

May 4, 2012

London Architecture: Marianne Butler

by Team Riverside

Or 2000 years of architectural achievement in smart paperback format for £12.99.

Metro Guides have been sending out their compact guides to all things London for quite some time now – cemeteries, gardens, hidden walks, bookshops, markets – seemingly aimed at tourists but perfect for Londoners too.  Architecture, a past bestseller, has been recently reissued.  It’s not a coffee table book but a guide, with just enough information (location, brief history, how to get there) to send you on your way and see for yourself why its been featured.  As well as the obvious there’s a plethora of the less obvious, the things we walk past every single day and sometimes notice (but mostly don’t), making it an ideal and accessible gateway to explore the wealth two millennia of putting buildings next to each other will give you.

Tags:
December 9, 2011

Panoramas of Lost London

by Team Riverside

Special Price: £25

The clue, of course, is in the title.  In a similar vein to Lost London, Philip Davies has put together another coffee table tome packed with photographs from the London County Council archive.  This, however, is more of a high definition model, with over 180 photos from the first book blown up and rendered in quite stunning detail alongside over 100 unseen exquisite beauties.  Take a closer look at the thumbnails to see for yourself.

Tags:
November 21, 2011

Londoners: Craig Taylor

by Stuart

Our favourite Canadian in London Craig Taylor has spent the last five years interviewing a massive ragtag army of Londoners, and this gorgeously produced, splendidly jacketed paperback is the glorious upshot of it all.  The transcribed oral testimonies of cabbie, currency trader, dominatrix, street cleaner, beekeeper, commuter, squatter, property developer, barrister, hedge fund manager, market trader, funeral director and loads and loads more all rub shoulders in an immensely readable cacophony that’s as close to a microcosm of the unreal city as it’s possible to find in book form.  This is already one of our favourite books of the year: a teeming bustle of real London voices that educates and entertains in equal measure.  Every home in this town should have one.

Tags:
October 6, 2011

London Unfurled: Matteo Pericoli

by Team Riverside

Matteo Pericoli spent two years travelling along the Thames from Hammersmith Bridge to the [former] Millennium Dome and committing both sides of the riverbank to paper, and this is the result: two 37 foot long pen and ink drawings (a total of over 22 metres for the metrically minded), one for the north bank and another for the south, both beautifully detailed and wondrously simple, printed back to back and all slipcased- up.  This is no mere London souvenir book but a genuine work of art.  For an actual look, check out the artists’ site for it here.

May 6, 2011

London’s Lost Rivers

by Team Riverside

Paul Talling, £9.99

The man behind Derelict London has been at it again, putting together another pocket sized tour to the bits of London you never knew existed; wet bits, to be specific – rivers, canals, ditches, brooks – long since drained, built over or otherwise consigned to the vagaries of history.  A handsome little book and most illuminating.

Tags:
January 13, 2011

Derelict London

by Team Riverside

Paul Talling, £9.99

An alternative London that eschews the sights and locales we’re all familiar with in favour of the derelict and forgotten landmarks slowly rotting away in front of us.

Tags:
January 12, 2011

The London Compendium

by Team Riverside

Ed Glinert. £12.99

The tales of hidden London, area by area, street by street, building by building, comprehensively catalogued by a man that has walked them all; riots, murders, rock & roll, espionage, gangs, the lot.

Tags:
January 11, 2011

London the Biography & Thames Sacred River

by Team Riverside

Peter Ackroyd, £16.99 (London), £14.99 (Thames)

The book of London (the clue is in the title) and the book of the River Thames (from sea to source and everything in-between).  Both bestsellers since the day they were published and neither – rightly – looking like losing that crown anytime soon.

Tags:
January 9, 2011

The London Cookbook

by Team Riverside

Jenny Linford, £14.99

Food writer Jenny Linford combines her own recipes with those of other food-loving Londoners -delicatessan owners, market stall owners, chefs and restaurateurs – in this celebration of London’s food culture.

Tags:
January 9, 2011

Brewer’s Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable

by Team Riverside

Russ Willey, £15.99

The essential London reference book you did not know you needed; a heady, witty and surprising  mixture of the people , places, events, myths, anecdotes and slang.

Tags:
January 9, 2011

London Encyclopeadia

by Team Riverside

Ben Weinreb, £30

The most comprehensive book on London ever published, revised and updated with over 6000 entries and 500 drawings, prints and photographs covering all that is relevant to the city’s culture, economy, government and history.  The definitive London reference work.

Tags:
January 6, 2011

50 Things to Spot in London

by Team Riverside

 

Usborne, £5.99

A pack of pocket-sized cards to help recognise and learn all about 50 of London’s famous landmarks.  Each card has a detailed illustration, with information, facts and statistics on reverse.

Tags:
January 3, 2011

Lost London 1870-1945

by Team Riverside

Special Price: £19.99

A spectacular collection of more than 500 of the best images from the former London County Council archive of photographs, held by English Heritage for 25 years, but by no means a nostalgic lament for the city.


Tags:
December 5, 2010

How The Dead Live: Derek Raymond

by Matt

Derek Raymond’s quartet of factory novels feature some of the bleakest descriptions of low life London put down on the page. Raymond manages to conjure in his view of 1980’s Britain a similar sense of morbid detail and helplessness that the painter Walter Sickert captured in his portraits of London’s waifs and strays a hundred years before.  Whilst I am a huge admirer of Raymond’s work and his observations of London changing landscape rival any of those to be found in Iain Sinclair’s writing (there is a chapter dedicated to Raymond in Sinclair’s ‘Lights Out For the Territory’), there have been times whilst reading the factory quartet that I have had to put down the book and walk away, such was the uncomfortable detail of the violence when it inevitably explodes. There are time then, that ‘How The Dead Live’ , the thirds in this series, strangely feels like a breath of fresh air after having your head forced under water.  Like the classic detectives from the golden age of American crime fiction, Raymond’s anonymous charge, in this book, has a real flair for snappy one-liners, wry social observations and there were times, reading this, when I imagined the writer himself doubled over and howling with laughter as he sat behind his typewriter. At times I was reminded of Kenneth William’s diaries, Joe Orton’s plays (and diaries) as well as the philosophy of Sartre and Camus whose combined influences more obviously pervades these books sense of isolation and loneliness.

In this book, our unnamed detective from Scotland Yard’s Unexplained Deaths arrives in the small town of Thornhill to investigate the disappearance of the eccentric (he’s been struck off the list) doctor’s wife last seen, six months before, wandering around town looking like a shadow of her former self, wearing a thick veil, obscuring the lower half of her face.

The morning after he arrives, our narrator, already smelling something suspicious underfoot, and staying in the local B & B, comes down for breakfast to find that he has already missed it. Raymond’s description of the girl behind the switchboard and his dialogue with her is the priceless chatter of classic detectives only Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade had never tried to get up in time  for breakfast in an English B & B.

An old blonde whose head looked as if it had been left behind in a train and whose bra was too big for her breasts sat behind the switchboard. She wore a ring with a big enough stone in it to deter a sex maniac, but had a nose like a pea shooter that would have put him off anyway.

“What was you wanting?”

“Breakfast.”

“Too late!” she crooned triumphantly. “Kitchen shuts sharp at half eight, nothing till lunchtime now. Here,” she said, pointing at a notice board behind her with a finger that looked like it as if it had been borrowed from an archery course, “can’t you read?”

Tags: ,
November 4, 2010

I Never Knew that about the River Thames

by Team Riverside

Christopher Winn, £9.99

Southend pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world

Christopher Winn, author of a whole host of I Never Knew That About… titles turns his attention this time to the Thames – all of it, not just the bit in the middle – in another fascinating and thorough excursion through the trivia and minutiae of history.

Tags: