3 Novels To Read To Get The Most Out of Your Trip To London

If you’re the type to research and plan before you make a move or take a trip, then perhaps you’ll also find yourself interested in reading a few novels to set the scene for your travels. These novels will help put you into a London frame of mind, while introducing you to the culture and the language, and paint a unique and entertaining picture of the city that you won’t find in any guide book.

Photo by Lena Vasiljeva/Flickr

Photo by Lena Vasiljeva/Flickr

The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin.

The first on our list will excite fantasy readers, intrigue mystery fans, and generally entertain anyone from the age of 16 to 82.  This book is number two in a series, all of which will ignite your passion for London and set your imagination free with ideas, images, and an overall feeling for the city itself.

The Midnight Mayor is Matthew Swift, a reanimated magician of sorts who seems to harness the power of electricity. The books starts off with discord in London; the city seems to be coming undone. The wards that guard the city are failing, the ravens who guard to the Tower of London have vanished, all hell seems to have broken loose and it’s Matthew’s job to find out what has caused this disturbance and it put it right.

The book goes through many important and relevant landmarks in London like the Tower; it details the tube stops, and really sets a supernatural but at the same time realistic picture of the city itself. You’ll find yourself remembering details from the book as you wander down Portobello road, or when you are lost in the maze of commuters in Charing Cross. The previous novel, A Madness of Angels, and the following book, The Neon Court, are fantastic reads as well. They really introduce you to the true side of everyday London, while exciting you with a taste of the magic that might lie behind the façade.

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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

Continuing on the realistic fantasy trend, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere takes a different take on the city of London by focusing on its Underground.  The majority of this tale takes place in the Tube’s forgotten subway stops in a realm that is not open to the average Londoner.

The story follows the Richard Mayhew, a young businessman who has recently moved to London and feels a bit lost, both in life and in the city itself. It’s then that he unknowingly saves a girl named Door, who seems to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Richard enters the world of London Below, a strange underground place that bizarrely echos the London you will explore above ground. You’ll see landmarks like Harrod’s of London turned into the Floating Market, and the story will keep you riveted until the last page.

Neverwhere has been translated into over 20 different languages and the story holds something real and yet magical that will capture your heart and leave you with some revelations on life, as most of Neil Gaiman’s work has been known to do. This book will introduce you to some twists on the burrows, important landmarks, and characters of London, giving you the feel of a foreigner exploring the massive and majestic city.

Portobello by Ruth Rendell.

This book is quite different from the others, though a general sense of mystery seems to encase all of the novels on this list. Portobello focuses on the famous area of Notting Hill and it’s residents.

Both rich and poor are showcased in Portobello, and their relationships are put on display along with their neurotic behaviour, their secrets and their lies. The characters often don’t seem to be in any way related to one another, or connected in any true sense; they only really share a postcode. It’s this bizarre mash of people and their intertwining stories that keeps you interested and holds your attention, while showing you some true humanity (and interesting vocabulary!) at the same time.

This book is rooted in reality and because of the descriptions, dialogues and vocabulary used, it gives you a very current picture of the kinds of individuals that make up society as a whole and those in particular that make up London. The descriptions of Notting Hill ring true (and may also be a bit surprising to a London newcomer), and will give you a feel for the area and the kinds of quirky characters that you’ll encounter.


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