Pub. Date: 3rd November 2011 (UK) 21st February 2012 (US)
Publisher: Granta (UK) Ecco (US)
Pages: 400 (UK) 448 (US)
Genre: Non-fiction, travel
Synopsis via Goodreads: Here are the voices of London witnessed by Craig Taylor. From the woman who is the voice of the London Underground to the man who plants the trees along Oxford Street; from a Muslim currency trader to a Guardsman at Buckingham Palace; from the marriage registrar at Westminster Town Hall to the director of the biggest Bethnal Green funeral parlour – together, these voices and many more, paint a vivid, epic and wholly fresh portrait of Twenty-First Century London.
I knew I’d love Londoners as soon as I read the introduction, written by the author – a Canadian who moved to London – telling the reader about his first time in London and what he experienced. And then the prologue, ‘Former Londoner’, written by someone who has nothing but negative, bitter things to say about the city. I thought it was hilarious (‘There’s too many people fighting for space on the Tube, everyone’s in a rush, everyone’s in a bad mood’). Londoners like to complain about London, and I couldn’t wait to see whose story I was going to read next.
The subtitle of the book, The Days and Nights of London Now, As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long for It, suggests that we’ll read colourful stories from a variety of Londoners – and that’s exactly what we get. The book is divided into sections (e.g. Arriving, Seeing the Sights, Making a Life, Keeping the Peace, etc) so that we hear stories from people from all sections of society – different ethnicities, sexualities, ages, religions, and classes, from the street cleaner to those in the top positions of the financial industry. Craig Taylor thought of everyone. Each story is fascinating and there’s a fantastic mix of sadness, joviality, and hilarity; political statements to honest confessions, but they’re all extremely enjoyable.
It is likely that I enjoyed the book especially as I am a Londoner myself; I recognised many of the places that were mentioned, and I giggled to myself at the type of comments you’d see on a Facebook group called ‘You know you’re a Londoner when…’. You get the sort of quotes about London than you wouldn’t find anywhere else. It’s definitely one of my favourite non-fiction titles. I shared specific interviews with my family when I thought they’d find them funny or interesting, and I’ll be buying a few copies as gifts.
If you have even the slightest interest in London, in finding out what’s beyond Big Ben or Buckingham Palace, Londoners a wonderful book both to dip in to now and again, or sit read for hours on end, immersed in each person’s experience. It’s an intimate, revealing, honest, and witty book that you’ll be desperate to share with others.