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Londoners: The Days and Nights of London…

Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love… (2011)

by Craig Taylor

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Rating: 3.5

The book tries its best to answer the following question: What defines a Londoner? Is a Londoner someone who was born in London? Is it someone who moved there 20 years ago? 10 years ago? 5 years ago? Or is a Londoner someone who knows how the city works, how it breathes. Someone that can navigate the tube and not get run over while crossing the street.

Composed by 85 (give or take) stories about Londoners, it was just what I needed after finding myself afflicted with London sickness. That feeling you get when you miss London with every fiber of your being and you wish Floo Powder existed just so you run to the nearest chimney and get going. London is highly diverse city so it makes sense that all these stories carry that very same diversity. Not one of these voices is the same. Mr. Taylor did an amazing job gathering all these tales from people from all walks of life.

I agree with other reviewers that the middle did tend to drag a bit. When I reached that particular story about the artist that collected hair from the tube floor... man, that was disgusting. I needed a little break. But beyond that, it's a wonderful window to understand the dichotomy that rules the lives of those that live in London. ( )
  lapiccolina | Jun 23, 2017 |
Kind of obsessed with London lately. This starts out great, very much like classic Studs Terkel. Gets kind of repetetive by the end. But still quite readable, a slice of London as seen by its citizens. ( )
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
Not as exciting as I thought it would be. Some of the narratives were pretty boring or depressing. London is still a place I'd like to visit but this book made me rethink moving there one day! It is interesting to learn about a city from people who live there, visited there or left there. Too bad they didn't interview a librarian in London. That would have been a good one! Overall, city life had its ups & downs no matter who you are or where you are. ( )
  Erika.D | Jan 28, 2016 |
Londoners feels to me like a big book. I was rather surprised to find that the print book is only 422 pages! For me, it felt like it took quite some time to listen to the audiobook (probably because I went away in the middle of it and wasn’t listening very much) but it’s also big in terms of ideas. To talk to a wide group of Londoners, from the new to the old, the lovers, the haters and all those in between is a huge effort. It must have taken ages for Craig Taylor to find people to be interview, conduct the interview and then transcribe and edit. It’s an ambitious project that captures so many different people who share a city.

The story is a collection of these interviews, divided into themes like arriving and leaving, marriage and death. It’s pretty easy to pick up where you left off (particularly if it’s at the end of an interview), so the audiobook is particularly good for short bursts. There is also a collection of narrators who are all brilliant at different accents and speech cadences. (I had to check that one of the narrators wasn’t my colleague, she sounded exactly the same!) My only niggle was that I knew some of the narrators really well by the end and it was occasionally hard to disconnect from the person they were playing in the previous vignette.

There were some really interesting people that Taylor spoke to. I think one of my favourites was the man looking after lost property on the Tube – it sounds like he does a brilliant job and really cares about it. He also had some classic tales to tell – like someone calling and asking what the chances were of a cake they left on the Tube being found uneaten! The pilots talking about taking off and landing too was fascinating. Marriage celebrants, grief counsellors, people going through supermarket bins, barristers, antique shop owners…all real people with many stories to tell. Some people I think could have had their own book of tales!

Some of the interviews weren’t my cup of tea – people complaining about others on their commute (I hear you, but deal with it) and some just went on a bit long. Other people had a viewpoint that appeared prejudiced or narrow minded at time, but it takes all sorts to make a city.

I think listening to this book really helped it to come alive for me. Worth a listen if you’re a Londoner or interested in the everyday thoughts of a range of people in a city.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | Sep 20, 2015 |
Overall, an interesting and perceptive anthology of various Londoners' views of their city. Most of the oral histories give at least some insights into the nature of living and working in London, which comes off as a busy, vibrant multicultural metropolis that still attracts people from around the country. There were a few stories I didn't like, as they were overwhelming critical, in a very overgeneralized way -- and, because of that, they said much more about the speakers than about where they lived. (It's an odd choice on Taylor's part to open his book with one such negative piece.) Still worth the read for those interested in London, if not up to Studs Terkel's best. ( )
  bostonian71 | Sep 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
...it should be on the Christmas wish list of everyone who lives in the capital.
added by chazzard | editLondonist.com (Nov 11, 2011)
added by chazzard | editThe Observer, Iain Sinclair (Nov 6, 2011)
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'What is the city but the people?'
- Shakespeare, Coriolanus

'No one, wise Kublai, knows better than you that the city must never be confused with the words that describe it. And yet between the one and the other there is a connection.'
- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

'If there is just one London, I have two arses.'
- A Thames River boatman
For Matt Weiland
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I grew up in a small, seaside village in western Canada and most summers I travelled across the country to my grandmother's summer cottage on the shores of Lake Simcoe in southern Ontario.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A collection of interviews with contemporary Londoners from all parts of the city and all walks of life.

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