Next week is London Book and Screen Week in, erm, London. I will be heading down to the capital, my old home and haunt, to join in with some of the wonderful events on offer and also to head to London Book Fair. Over the next week in the lead up London Book and Screen Week asked five authors to revealing their favourite books about London on seven blogs and they very kindly asked if I would like to take part. I said ‘oh go one then’ and so toda the fabulous Deborah Moggach, author of Tulip Fever and These Foolish Things (aka the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, both of which my Gran and mother have raved about and I have still not read shame on me) shares her favourite literary links with London…
MY FAVOURITE BOOKS SET IN LONDON
“Mrs Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf.
Virginia Woolf blew me away when I first read her – I was astonished at the way she sensitized me to the world, and how she explored feelings I had never quite put into words. This novel, about a woman preparing for a party, has hardly any plot at all, it’s all sensation. Nowadays I find her harder to read as she’s so terribly snobbish, but I loved this novel in my youth and still love its glimpse into a privileged world of West End florists and drawing rooms, a world that is long gone.
“Riceyman Steps” by Arnold Bennett.
This is one of my favourite novels by one of my very favourite novelists, who is little known nowadays but who was the most popular fiction writer of his day. Riceyman Steps explores a very different London to Mrs Dalloway’s – the murky region of Kings Cross where life is a struggle in the sooty back streets. It’s the story of a miserly bookseller and his faithful maid and it’s full of humanity. Just read it, you’ll thank me for it, especially as Kings Cross has now changed out of all recognition (it was published in 1923 but feels almost Victorian)
“White Teeth” by Zadie Smith.
This wonderful, fizzing, generous novel was quite rightly a huge hit. Its large, multi-racial cast explodes off the pages and it finally puts Willesden, much neglected until now, on the map. It’s also very funny.
MY BEST PLACE TO READ IN LONDON
Lying on the grass beside the Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath. It’s the most peaceful place in the city, and every now and then one can plunge into the water and have a swim amongst the ducks. And everyone else is reading too – mobile phones are forbidden. No distractions except nature.
FAVOURITE SCREEN ADAPTATION
I think it must be “Short Cuts”, which Robert Altman and his co-screenwriter adapted from Raymond Carver’s short stories. It’s a fantastic piece of work because it weaves the stories in and out of each other and creates a complex picture of Los Angeles. Or if it’s London you want – “Absolute Beginners”, adapted from the Colin MacInnes novel, which brings back the heady days of the 1950s, a decade which has largely been ignored and which I can just remember. Though unfortunately I grew up near Watford, rather than Soho.
This year, London Book & Screen Week will be taking place from 13th – 19th April, uniting readers, writers, gamers and film fans, with hundreds of events taking place across the capital that celebrate stories and the written word in all its forms. Events are listed at: http://www.londonbookandscreenweek.co.uk/ You might just seem my face at some of them.
Big thanks to Deborah for taking the time to tell us all about her favourite literary links with London. I am actually wondering if I should get authors to do posts on their literary landscapes over the next few months, I don’t know about you but I would love to hear authors thoughts on the literary landscape that ignites them. What do you think? Anyway hopefully see some of your faces at London Book and Screen Week next week.
If you have read Deborah Moggach’s novels do let me know your thoughts on them and where I should start? I would also love to know what books and films you love set in London.