Book Review: Londoners by Craig Taylor
I naturally went to Chapters immediately after we parted and nestled down with a coffee to see what this book about the greatest city on earth had to offer. I was not disappointed.
Quick plot summary:
I actually can't really give a plot summary for Londoners, because, well, there isn't one. This book is a collection of interviews conducted by Taylor over a series of 5-ish years. He divides the book into different topics: arrival, moving around the city, culture clash. Under each heading are a series of interviews with an often unlikely bunch of people. My personal favourites include a chat with the woman who is the voice of the Underground, several interviews with a man named Smartie who worked as the most popular London club DJ in the 1980s, a late-night and early morning spent with a man who works buying produce at an open market, and the story of a man who worked as a rickshaw driver for years.
Taylor begins the book with a preface outlining his inspiration for the book. As a young writer, he left Canada to work in London and spent a miserable first year there. Yet when he returned home, he couldn't escape the draw to the city, and he eventually moved back. His intention as he embarked upon his five-year journey of meeting and interviewing Londoners was to discover what it is that makes London - its appeal for some, repulsion for others, and the ever-changing cultural landscape that makes defining what it means to be a Londoner nearly impossible.
I liked Londoners. I thought it was really interesting to read the sort of vast and varied opinions of London and living within the city's limits. I read a (much better) review on Aarti Chapati's blog that described the book as "haunting," and I can't put it any better myself. I felt simultaneously enamoured and repulsed, fascinated and frightened of London long after turning the last page of this book; I'm sure that was the very point Taylor was trying to make. That London cannot be defined as one thing. It does not evoke one particular feeling or memory; it is a complicated, living, moving entity.
If you like London and interviews and personal histories, I think Londoners is a book you simply must pick up.
Number of books read in 2012: 6
Current TV series: The West Wing (season 2)
Today's nail colour: Essie's "Turquoise and Caicos"