A good novel takes its reader on an adventure through plot and character development, but now and then it’s really nice to read a story set in a city or location you know well - there's something so comforting about being able to visualise the location down to the most specific details. Here are some books, new and old, set in London. So grab a cuppa and get cosy...
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Set in: Westminster
Read if you like: the classics
Follow a day in the life of fictional high society socialite Clarissa Dalloway. You’re not going to come across the London Eye or Tate Modern in Mrs Dalloway but you’ll experience London as seen through the eyes of upper class women post World War 1. Preparing to host a party that evening Mrs. Dalloway scurries around her neighbourhood in London. Loads of heavy themes in this book, including mental illness. It's a London classic.
NW by Zadie Smith
Set in: Willesden
Read if you like: White Teeth
One of Zadie's best books, it follows two friends - Leah and Natalie - and the lives they've created for themselves since leaving the council estate they grew up on. A masterpiece that's optimistic, funny, real and angry all at the same time. The BBC's 2016 adaptation was magnificent.
Boy on the Bridge by MR Carey
Set in: post-apocalyptic London
Read if you like: Warm Bodies
This is the highly anticipated prequel to MR Carey’s The Girl With all the Gifts – and it’s chock-full of all the great things we love about the post-apocalyptic genre: lots of zombies and savaged lands - based in a London you won’t likely recognize. Better grab a copy before it comes out on the big screen, as the sequel is already out starring Glenn Close and Gemma Arterton.
Living the Dream by Lauren Berry
Set in: Shoreditch and Tottenham Court Road
Read if you like: Bridget Jones
A fun, quirky office life novel about Emma Derringer and Clementine Twist. Emma gets a job as an assistant at an advertising agency in London. A typical day involves either disguising her boredom or hangover. When her crazy boss is busy or absent then Emma’s usually trying to pursue her real passion, writing. Clementine, just moved home from New York with a heavy heart and zero money – she has to move in with her mum and get a job at a bar. Both girls realize, as they say goodbye to their 20s, it’s time to make some real moves and pursue their dreams. Bridget Jones diary for the millennial set.
Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding
Set in: Southwark
Read if you like: Bridget needs no introduction
Any list of London books would not be complete without the antics of Bridget Jones. If you’ve seen the movies, then you know what I am talking about – Reneé Zellweger has a special way of bringing Bridget to life on the big screen. If you have yet to read the books I strongly recommend them. The film directors have done an above average job of bringing the books to life but there really is so much more in the books and the backdrop of streets and neighborhood really come alive in the pages.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Set in: Underneath the streets of London
Read if you like: Winter's Tale
I’m a big fan of Gaimans and that’s because he brings the mystical to life in a way few can. Neverwhere is a place, and it happens to be under the streets of London (with real London places like the Old Bailey, Blackfriars Angel, Islington). It’s an incredible city of all sorts including monsters, saints, angles and demons. Incredibly well written and such a gifted storyteller – you’ll fall in love with this new world and soon find yourself looking through the cracks in the sidewalk whenever you’re in town.
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Set in: Fulham
Read if you like: Chick lit by the likes of Marion Keyes, Lisa Jewell, Cecelia Ahern
You’ll be unable to stifle your LOLs during this book by Kinsella and you’ll adore the constant referencing of high street fashion labels and exhaustively researched thread count of every item Becky Bloomwood buys that she clearly cannot afford. You’ll be sad when you turn the last page – but fear not, there are four other books in this series!
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Set in: Highgate cemetery
Read if you like: The Time Traveler's Wife
It may be present day but you’ll have to remain fairly open minded to enjoy this book, the second by The Time Traveler's Wife author. Twin sisters, Julia and Valentina, travel to London to live in their aunt’s apartment, which was left to them in her will. We soon learn that Aunt Elspeth may well have left this world but her spirit remains in the house. It's far-fetched but so entertaining none the less.