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10 books that will take you around London

Immerse yourself in the culture, atmosphere and beauty of London from your own home, wherever that may be in the world. These 10 works of fiction are set in London and they will take you on a journey from the 19th Century to the modern city. Enjoy!

1. About a boy by Nick Hornby

Set in 1993, the story is told from two different points of view; a 12-year-old boy called Marcus, and Will, a 36-year-old single man. The book focuses on the way that the two central characters, Marcus and Will, learn to trust other people to find happiness.

Published in other languages:

  • Un Gran Chico (Spanish)
  • À Propos d’un Gamin (French)
  • Un Ragazzo (Italian)
  • Era Uma Vez Um Rapaz (Portuguese)

2. Brick Lane by Monica Ali

This novel is set in the 1980s and centres on the life of Nazneen, a Bangladeshi immigrant who marries an older man in an arranged marriage. Nazneen relocates to London to start her new married life with her husband, where she is exposed to a new culture, and struggles to find a balance between new possibilities and old traditions.

Published in other languages:

  • Siete Mares, Trece Rios (Spanish)
  • Sept Mers et Treize Rivières (French)
  • Sette Mari Tredici Fiumi (Italian)
  • Um Lugar Chamado Brick Lane (Portuguese)

3. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Wolf

Mrs Dalloway was published in 1925 and covers one single day from morning to night in a woman’s life. Clarissa Dalloway, an upper-class housewife, walks through her London neighbourhood to prepare for the party she will host that evening. The book centres on the events and people that Clarissa interacts with during her day.

Published in other languages:

  • La senora Dalloway (Spanish)
  • Mrs Dalloway (French)
  • La Signiora Dalloway (Italian)
  • Mrs Dalloway (Portuguese)

4. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

The novel, published in 1838, follows the life of the titular character, Oliver Twist, from birth. Oliver is an orphan and the book describes the harsh conditions of his childhood and his travels to London, where he meets a gang of juvenile pickpockets. The book describes common social problems of 19th century London.

Published in other languages:

  • Oliver Twist (Spanish)
  • Les Aventures d’Oliver Twist (French)
  • Oliver Twist (Italian)
  • Oliver Twist (Portuguese)

5. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Set between the 1870s and the 1910s, the Sherlock Holmes series of books are about a private detective who lives at 221b Baker Street in London. He has keen powers of observation, noticing things that others don't, and he draws accurate conclusions about what he sees. He is accompanied by his friend Doctor Watson, he plays the violin, and is a master of deductive reasoning.

Published in other languages:

  • Sherlock Holmes (Spanish)
  • Les Aventures de Sherlock Holmes (French)
  • Tutto Sherlock Holmes (Italian)
  • As Aventuras de Sherlock Holmes (Portuguese)

6. The Picture of Dorian Gray

Set in the 1890s, Dorian Gray is the subject of a full-length portrait in oil by Basil Hallward, an artist impressed by and infatuated with Dorian's beauty. The character of Lord Henry Wotton encourages Dorian to seek a more hedonistic life, based on beauty and self-fulfilment. It is at this point that Dorian declares his wish that the picture should show his ageing process but that he himself should never age.

Published in other languages:

  • El Retrato de Dorian Gray (Spanish)
  • Le Portrait de Dorian Gray (French)
  • Il Ritratto di Dorian Gray (Italian)
  • O Retrato de Dorian Gray (Portuguese)

7. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a 1974 spy novel which follows the endeavours of spymaster George Smiley to uncover a Soviet mole in the British Secret Intelligence Service. This is a complex story, but worth a try!

Published in other languages:

  • El Topo (Spanish)
  • La Taupe (French)
  • La Talpa (Italian)
  • A Toupeira (Portuguese)

8. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

Set in London between WWI and WWII, this novel examines the frenetic but empty lives of young people who indulge in constant party-going, heavy drinking and promiscuous sex.

Published in other languages:

  • Cuerpos Viles (Spanish)
  • Ces Corps Vils (French)
  • Corpi Vili (Italian)
  • Corpos Vis (Portuguese)

9. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Set in the 2000s, this book focuses on the later lives of two wartime friends, the Bangladeshi Samad Iqbal and the Englishman Archie Jones, and their families in London. The book focuses on the issues of faith, gender, race, history and culture.

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Published in other languages:

  • Dientes Blancos (Spanish)
  • Sourires de Loup (French)
  • Denti Bianchi (Italian)
  • Dentes Brancos (Portuguese)

10. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

The main plot of this book is a love story between Z, who has come to London to learn English, and her English boyfriend who lives in Hackney. Much of the novel discusses language, and the differences between Z’s native language and English.

Published in other languages:

  • Breve Diccionario Chino-Ingles para Enamorados (Spanish)
  • Petit Dictionnaire Chinois-Anglais pour Amants (French)
  • Piccolo Dizionario Cinese-Inglese per Innamorati (Italian)

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