Sunday, June 12, 2011

London Calling!

The London Train (P.S.)First up, my review of The London Train by Tessa Hadley, which has just appeared in the Star Tribune. That's #1 in my "I'm about to go to London, plus, every book I read is set there" list. (And no, I'm not just reading the Frommer's Guide.)

The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise: A NovelBest for revving me up about tourism while simultaneously making me a bit sheepish about being a tourist is Julia Stuart's The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise. This is set almost entirely in the Tower of London, with delightful excursions to Westminster Abbey and the Lost Property Office of the London Underground. Many of the characters are Beefeaters, though now I know to call them Yeoman Warders instead, and to do my best to find the restrooms without asking them for directions. The unique and, in Stuart's hands, delightfully quirky yet humane world of the residents of the Tower is an excellent backdrop to Yeoman Warder Jones' personal and professional struggles. All of this, plus fun facts about cross-dressing as an escape method - you really can't go wrong.

One Day. David NichollsFor light but engrossing summer reading fun, One Day by David Nicholls is both funny and moving, and an unexpectedly complex examination of a friendship over time. We visit Em and Dex every July 15 from the day after their university graduation in the 80s through twenty years of travels and relationships and varying levels of dependence on each other. (Also, they spend a lot of time in London, separately and together, so it fits my apparent-fixation.) The conceit could be a bit precious, but Nicholls does a solid job of making one day a year momentous and telling, without resorting to credulity-stretching coincidences or the characters' imbuing that date with undue significance. 
It's very neatly done, and their friendship is rightfully abiding.

Desperate DuchessesOther than these, I've been reading a lot of the Desperate Dutchess and similar titles by Eloisa James, because London is also about ballrooms and aristocracy and riding through the park and bodices and scandal and the need for a beautiful and spirited woman to overcome obstacles so that she can find completion with a handsome yet secretly wounded man who never knew he needed her in his life. I'm not, however, planning on boring my sons with all that as I drag them from cathedral to museum to Shakespeare play. Some tourism should take place only in my mind.

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