You may or may not have noticed that many of the books I have reviewed are set in or have connections with London. Sometimes it is just a coincidence and other times, I like the sound of a book and how it works with London as a setting, as was the case with this one.
In this collection of short stories, 23 London writers explore less famous parts of the capital with their own unique voices. When books are usually set in London, iconic landmarks often feature heavily within the storyline. The parts of London in this collection are the ones people may live and work in, travel in and around on a daily basis and yet don’t tend to play such a starring role in stories, until now.
Split into North, South, East and West regions, An Unreliable Guide to London is an eclectic mix of stories, including a sinister tale of blood thieves in Camden, wind nymphs in South Clapham, a lively taxidermy in Islington and the myth of a giant purple swan at Brentford Ait.
The swan story actually happened to be my favourite of all of them; as it was humorous, imaginative and kind of convincing at times which made me want to believe in such a bizarre and elusive creature. As with many short story collections, I didn’t like or get every single story, but with so many varied tales, I think there is something for every taste.
The authors in this collection are: Aki Schilz, Courttia Newland, Eley Williams, Gary Budden, Juliet Jacques, Stephen Thompson, Chloe Aridjis, George F., Salena Godden, Will Wiles, Noo Saro-Wiwa, Paul Ewen, Sunny Singh, Stephanie Victoire, M John Harrison, Koye Oyedeji, Tim Wells, Nikesh Shukla, Tim Burrows, Yvette Edwards, Gareth E. Rees, Irenosen Okojie and Kit Caless.
One thing I really enjoyed about this collection was that most of the authors I hadn’t heard of and it is so refreshing to read works from writers that are unfamiliar and new. Great for all readers but this book will especially appeal to fellow Londoners who may feel familiarity in the ideas and locales in the stories and may even recognise their own little patch of London within the words.
An Unreliable Guide to London is a quirky and passionate collection that wonderfully encapsulates an alternative view of London and will leave you with a curiosity to explore London’s lesser known areas.