Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Story of London in 50 Novels

Back in May, 2014, I began a blog series on "A History of the World in 50 Novels." It was inspired by Neil MacGregor's radio series and book, A History of the World in 100 Objects; opened with William Golding's historical novel, "The Inheritors," set more than thirty thousand years ago; and concluded, almost exactly three years after I began, with Sebastian Faulks's contemporary novel, "A Week in December," written against the background of concerns about terrorism, addiction, and global financial crisis. The series included some of the most popular posts that I have ever published here: Number 27, which considers the novel, "Manituana," by the Italian writers' collective, Wu Ming, is actually my second most popular, with 3035 individual page-views, as of today.

Having published three historical novels, Undreamed Shores, set in the Channel Islands, southern England and northern France at around 2400 BC; An Accidental King, set in southern England in the First Century AD; and Omphalos, with inter-related stories set in 2013, the Second World War, the Eighteenth, Sixteenth, and Twelfth Centuries, and 4000 BC, and inspired by one of my own archaeological excavations on Jersey; I announced, at the beginning of 2015, that my next novel would be set in London, where I have now spent more than half of my life. My blog-posts, since then, have reflected this new focus.

I also said, at the beginning of 2015, that this new novel might take some time, which indeed it has, partly because it has become a trilogy (working title, The Cheapside Tales, with the first novel being The Freedwoman's Tale), but also because I have been dividing my time between writing and teaching. It is still very much work in progress, but the orientation towards London is clear, and, on that basis, I am beginning a new blog-series, "The Story of London in 50 Novels." I am interested to look at the various ways in which novelists, from Daniel Defoe down to China Mieville and Neil Gaiman, have explored the changing character of the city in which I have chosen to live.

Here, then, are my selections.

1. London, by Edward Rutherfurd.
2. The Emperor's Babe, by Bernardine Evaristo.
3. Cast Not The Day, by Paul Waters.
4. Now is the Time, by Melvyn Bragg.
5. A Burnable Book, by Bruce Holsinger.
6. The Woman in the Shadows, by Carol McGrath.
7. The Marlowe Papers, by Ros Barber.
8. The House of Doctor Dee, by Peter Ackroyd.
9. Nothing Like the Sun, by Anthony Burgess.

10. Journal of the Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe.
11. The Fatal Tree, by Jake Arnott.
12. The Quality of Mercy, by Barry Unsworth.
13. The Giant O'Brien, by Hilary Mantel.
14. Mistress of my Fate, by Hallie Rubenhold.
15. Burning Bright, by Tracy Chevalier.
16. Dombey and Son, by Charles Dickens.
17. The Walworth Beauty, by Michelle Roberts.
18. Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot.
19. Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens.
20. Mrs Engels, by Gavin McCrea.
21. Affinity, by Sarah Waters.
22. The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad.
23. Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome.
24. A Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde.
25. A Child of the Jago, by Arthur Morrison.
26. Children of the Ghetto, by Israel Zangwill.
27. London Lies Beneath, by Stella Duffy.
28. The Hourglass Factory, by Lucy Ribchester.

29. Life Class, by Pat Barker.
30. Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf.
31. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson.
32. The Clocks in This House Are All Telling Different Times, by Xan Brooks.
33. Murphy, by Samuel Beckett.
34. The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters
35. The Lonely Londoners, by Samuel Selvon.
36. The Longest Fight, by Emily Bullock.
37. The Dark Circle, by Linda Grant.
38. The Ballad of Peckham Rye, by Muriel Spark.
39. Metroland, by Julian Barnes.
40. East of Acre Lane, by Alex Wheatle.
41. Brick Lane, by Monica Ali.
42. The Lesser Bohemians, by Eimear McBride.
43. There But For The, by Ali Smith.
44. Saturday, by Ian McEwan.
45. Ten Days, by Gillian Slovo.
46. NW, by Zadie Smith.
47. Serious Sweet, by A.L. Kennedy.
48. The Bricks That Built The Houses, by Kate Tempest.
49. Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville.
50. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman.

I look forward to exploring these books with anyone who cares to join me. As with my earlier series, "A History of the World in 50 Novels" (#HW50Novels), I will be using a Twitter hash-tag (#SL50Novels) to make it easier for readers of one post to find others in the same series.

Mark Patton is a published author of historical fiction and non-fiction, whose books may be purchased from Amazon.

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