By: Jerry White
London has the greatest literary tradition of any city in the world. Its roll call of storytellers includes cultural giants like Shakespeare, Defoe, and Dickens, and an innumerable host of writers of all sorts who sought to capture the essence of the place.
Acclaimed historian Jerry White has collected some twenty-six stories to illustrate the extraordinary diversity of both London life and writing over the past four centuries, from Shakespeare’s day to the present.
These are stories of fact and fiction and occasionally something in between, some from well-known voices and others practically unknown. Here are dramatic views of such iconic events as the plague, the Great Fire of London, and the Blitz, but also William Thackeray’s account of going to see a man hanged, Thomas De Quincey’s friendship with a teenaged prostitute, and Doris Lessing’s defense of the Underground.
This literary London encompasses the famous Baker Street residence of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and the bombed-out moonscape of Elizabeth Bowen’s wartime streets, Charles Dicken’s treacherous River Thames and Frederick Treves’s tragic Elephant Man. Graham Greene, Jean Rhys, Muriel Spark, and Hanif Kureishi are among the many great writers who give us their varied Londons here, revealing a city of boundless wealth and ragged squalor, of moving tragedy and riotous joy.
Published in 2014.
Published by: Everyman's Library
It's the midsummer ball at Oxford, and a group of men and women - friends since university days - have gathered under the stars. Included in this group is David Crimond, a genius and fervent Marxist.
Years earlier the friends had persuaded David to write a philosophical and political book on their behalf. But opinions and loyalties have changed, and on this summer evening the long-resting ghosts of the past come careering back into the present.
Published in 2003.
When Charles Arrowby retires from his glittering career in the London theatre, he buys a remote house on the rocks by the sea. He hopes to escape from his tumultuous love affairs but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart and sets his heart on destroying her marriage.
His equilibrium is further disturbed when his friends all decide to come and keep him company and Charles finds his seaside idyll severely threatened by his obsessions.
Published in 1999.
Gyuri, a fourteen-year-old Hungarian Jew, gets the day off school to witness his father signing over the family timber business - his final act before being sent to a labour camp. Two months later, Gyuri finds himself assigned to a 'permanent workplace'. This is the start of his journey to Auschwitz.
On his arrival Gyuri finds that he is unable to identify with other Jews, and is rejected by them. An outsider among his own people, his estrangement makes him a preternaturally acute observer, dogmatically insisting on making sense of the barbarity - and beauty - he witnesses.
Published in 2017.