Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

Armchair travels: London

As July comes to an end, all eyes will be on London and the Summer Olympics. Whether you know the city well or have only dreamed of visiting, we have the ticket for your virtual vacation. Brew yourself a pot of tea or pour yourself a pint, open the cover of one our recommendations, and be transported to the streets of one the most interesting cities in the world.

Vintage affairA Vintage Affair
by Isabel Wolff

Although Phoebe Swift has a wonderful job at Sotheby’s, the famous auction house, she has always wanted to be her own boss. When she finally decides to open a London vintage clothing store, she is thrilled to be able to help match each customer with the perfect designer outfit from decades past. She loves going on buying trips and thinking about the stories behind each beautiful dress. But despite the success of Village Vintage and the possibility of romance with one of two interested guys, Phoebe isn’t completely happy. She has both personal and family issues that she hasn’t been able to resolve. When she meets an elderly Frenchwoman who is selling off her fabulous vintage wardrobe, Phoebe realizes she has found a friend and a possible path to inner peace. Isabel Wolff’s A Vintage Affair is about more than just cool clothing and a love story, it’s also about personal growth, healing and the power of women’s friendships.

Brick laneBrick Lane
by Monica Ali

Nazeen was just 16 when her family arranged her marriage to 40-year-old Chanu. When Chanu takes her from her home in rural Bangladesh to live in London’s Brick Lane, Nazeen has more than homesickness to worry about — she knows almost nothing of the modern world or Western culture. Nazeen’s story moves beyond the typical immigrant tale to show us a side of London few of us are aware of. Monica Ali’s Brick Lane is a story of contrasts that tracks Nazeen’s awakening to personal power, women’s rights, love and happiness despite the confines of her traditional marriage and family expectations. These contrasts are further highlighted by the circumstances of Nazeen’s sister, who struggles with her own issues in Bangladesh. Ali doesn’t shy away from 21st-century concerns, and readers will be particularly interested in the way Nazeen copes with post-9/11 bigotry against her Islamic faith.

Ordinary ThunderstormsOrdinary Thunderstorms
by William Boyd

Adam Kindred is in London to get a fresh start and interview for a job at the university. Adam indeed finds a new life… just not the one he had hoped for. When he discovers the dead body of a man he’s just met, Adam is terrifyingly caught up in the crime. The police think he’s the murderer, and the real killer thinks he’s a threat. By the time Adam finds a hidey-hole on the Embankment, he’s lost everything that makes him Adam Kindred. Without papers, money, phone or friends, he’s forced to create a new identity while trying to stay alive. William Boyd’s Ordinary Thunderstorms is a multilayered thriller with two principal themes. First is the question of whether it’s possible to totally reinvent oneself. And second is an exploration of life along the Thames. From the homeless to the wealthiest, the citizens of greater London are drawn to the river, and through them, Boyd offers us a variety of perspectives of life in the great city.

CAn you keep a secret?Can You Keep a Secret?
by Sophie Kinsella

Emma Corrigan is more than a little afraid to fly. While returning home after a business trip, her plane hits some turbulence, and Emma, sure she’s about to die, starts confessing all her little secrets to the cute guy sitting next to her. These aren’t just any secrets but very personal details, like what she really thinks of her boyfriend and work mates, how she lost her virginity and her true weight. Naturally, the plane lands safely in London. But Emma isn’t worried — after all she’ll never see that man again. When she gets to work the next morning, she learns the stranger is the CEO of her company. Of course she’s mortified, and of course Jack remembers every word she said. Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? is a fun summer read of a young woman in London balancing love and work, while trying to hang on to a shred of dignity.

the name of the starThe Name of the Star
by Maureen Johnson

Rory Deveaux, a Louisiana native, is excited about spending her senior year at a London boarding school. Unfortunately, on her very first day in the city, a murder takes place that mimics Jack the Ripper’s style from more than 100 years ago. The police and surveillance cameras have no witnesses, but Rory is sure she sees a man at the scene of the crime. Why can no one else see what she can? As panic hits London, Rory is in a race to help solve the murder before she becomes the next victim. The Name of the Star is a creepy young adult mystery that will have you sleeping with a night light. Besides the paranormal elements, readers will delight in the American in England mishaps and the details of life in a modern London boarding school.

by Edward Rutherfurd

Historical fiction fans who want to know everything there is to know about the city on the Thames, need look no farther than Edward Rutherfurd’s London. Rutherfurd tackles the massive story of the city by starting with the druids who lived along the river before the Romans crossed the Channel. From there, he takes us through two millennia of life in London, focusing on the descendants of the original families and branching out to embrace the vast variety of the city’s inhabitants, including immigrants and natives, rich and poor, commoners and royals, educated and illiterate. Rutherfurd’s easy-to-read style and fantastic characterizations keep readers invested in the novel, despite the fact that we know the city will survive its many setbacks. London provides a very approachable profile of the ancient city.

by Craig Taylor

Ever wonder what it would be like to live and work in London? Craig Taylor spent five years interviewing people from all walks of life and from all parts of the city. The stories he collected in Londoners make up a fascinating portrait of the city, told in short, very personal vignettes. You’ll meet young lawyers discussing the best place to buy their wigs, hear how a ballerina morphed into a plumber and listen to a city planning officer talk about London as a living organism. Taylor takes you from Buckingham Palace to Big Ben and from the ancient London markets to the newest nightclub. Londoners is a must-read for anyone who has visited or lived in the city, who dreams of visiting the city, or who is interested in the opinions of those who call it home.

More book picks

Must-read: The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
Must-read: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
SheKnows book review: Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp

Leave a Comment

Comments are closed.