WriteNow City Literary Guide: London


To celebrate WriteNow Live coming to Nottingham, London and Liverpool we've been looking into the iconic literary past of these 3 cities. You can find more about WriteNow 
here.

As the UK’s capital city, it’s not surprising that many well-known writers decided to live there or were inspired to pen their stories and verse on the diverse, bustling streets surrounding the Thames.
 

Charles Dickens

The most well-known depictions of London have to be through the eyes of Charles Dickens. Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield are just a few of the iconic titles based in Victorian London. Having spent time in a workhouse himself, Dickens based a lot of his work on the wealth and social divide in London. Readers were put into the shoes of the city’s poor through story, which hadn’t been done to quite the same effect before.

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Portrait of Charles Dickens

'Please sir, I want some more' from Oliver!, 1968


His stories live on today, and not only through books. His work has been made into over 500 adaptions both on television and in film and the musical Oliver! based on Oliver Twist has been seen both on screen and on stage. 



Virginia Woolf

As a leading figure of the Bloomsbury group, Virginia Woolf was an outspoken writer, feminist and bisexual. Capturing the life in London she knew so well, stories like Mrs Dalloway perfectly encapsulate how the city felt in her lifetime; acting almost as a time capsule. Following Clarissa Dalloway through her day running errands to prepare for a party, her inner monologue speaks of the hustle and bustle of London, the excitement and the contrast of light and dark in one day.

Portrait of Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway by Virgina Woolf

 

One might fancy that day, the London day, was just beginning. Like a woman who had slipped off her print dress and white apron to array herself in blue and pearls, the day changed, put off stuff, took gauze, changed to evening, and with the same sigh of exhilaration that a woman breathes, tumbling petticoats on the floor, it too shed dust, heat, colour; the traffic thinned; motor cars, tinkling, darting, succeeded the lumber of vans; and here and there among the thick foliage of the squares an intense light hung... I disappear, but London would have none of it, and rushed her bayonets into the sky, pinioned her, constrained her to partnership in her revelry.


Monica Ali

As a city so big and with so much opportunity, migrants and tourists flock to the centre and we have the opportunity to see London through new eyes. In Brick Lane by Monica Ali, a young woman in an arranged marriage finds herself in the east end, far away from her Bangladeshi home. Not knowing a word of English, she’s tentative at first but finds friendship in a friendship in Razia who helps her understand her new country and start to make roots.

Brick Lane by Monica Ali


You can spread your soul over a paddy field, you can whisper to a mango tree, you can feel the earth between your toes and know that this is the place, the place where it begins and ends. But what can you tell to a pile of bricks? The bricks will not be moved.


5 great reads set in London

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

London Under by Peter Ackroyd

NW by Zadie Smith

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon

Constitutional by Helen Simpson

    

    

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