Photo credit: @hannahmay.reads

London is known for its pubs, double-decker buses, and iconic landmarks, but at its core is a long and complicated history. For centuries, writers have brought London to life within their pages engaging readers from around the world. Whether you’re looking at London as a stage for centuries of conflict and colonization or a place of refuge and resilience, the complex background of this historical location is rich with story.

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon

The Lonely Londoners is a poignant immigrant narrative that beautifully illustrates the authentic experiences of a group of West Indians living in London in the 1950s. This award-winning novel explores themes of cultural displacement, racism, loneliness, and belonging through the distinct perspectives of each character.

The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain

An unforgettable multigenerational novel following a father, Amjad, and his two children, Saahil and Zahra. Although heartbreaking, The Family Tree vividly illustrates the complexities of familial relationships through engaging characters exploring love, forgiveness, and resilience.

The Attic Child by Lola Jaye

A poignant novel alternating between the early 1900s and the 1970s exploring identity, racism, loss, and family secrets. In the early 1900s, Dikembe is a young boy growing up in Africa who finds himself acting as an unpaid servant to English explorer Sir Richard Babbington. In the 1970s, Lowra is a young girl who has lost her parents and finds herself trapped in the attic of the same home Dikembe lived. Their lives unexpectedly intertwine as the truth comes to light from the dark attic they both spent much time in.

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

The Light Over London is a captivating dual timeline novel that alternates between present day, following Cara Hargraves, and the 1940s following Louise Keene. In the present-day, Cara is an antiques dealer who discovers a diary dating back to World War II. As she reads the diary, Cara is drawn into the life of Louise Keene, a young woman who worked as a gunner girl during the Blitz in London.

The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka

The Book of Echoes is an uplifting novel alternating between a biracial young boy, Michael, growing up in Brixton during the 1980s and a young girl, Ngozi, growing up in Lagos. Michael struggles to feel a sense of belonging and becomes increasingly aware of racism and inequalities in British society while Ngozi strives for an opportunity to work as a maid but quietly learns that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Set in Victorian London, Fingersmith is a multi-layered novel filled with deception, betrayal and unexpected twists following Sue Trinder. Sue was an orphan left in the care of Mrs. Sucksby who also provides shelter for a transient family of petty thieves, the fingersmiths. Later a notorious con man, “Gentleman”, enlists Sue to help swindle an heiress named Maud Lily. If Sue secures a position as a maid for Maud, they will share the heiress inheritance. Although Sue agrees and becomes Maud’s maid, she soon regrets her decision but it’s too late to turn back now.

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

This story intricately weaves together, the narratives of two women centuries apart, Ester Velasquez and Helen Watt. One is an emigrant who hired as a scribe for a blind rabbi just before the plague, the other is an ailing historian with an affection for Jewish history. The Weight of Ink navigates the enduring human desire for connection and understanding across time and space as each woman attempts to reconcile their choices and sacrifices.

Island Songs by Alex Wheatle

A beautifully crafted novel filled with evocative imagery and engaging characters, Island Songs depicts the experience of Caribbean immigrants growing up in the UK. This heart-rendering novel captures the relationship between two sisters as they navigate life in Brixton and the vibrance of Jamaica.

Gravel Heart by Abdulrazak Gurnah

Gravel Heart follows Salim growing up in Zanizbar and his move to London to attend university. In London, Salim struggles to find his footing and the ongoing impact of colonialism on society while confronting the dark past of his family.

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

An emotional journey inspired by true events transports readers to the years just before World War II. Truus Wijsmuller is a member of the Dutch resistance who helps Jewish children find a way out of Nazi Germany. Determined to save as many children as she can, Truus will go to great lengths and risk her own life to bring children on a treacherous journey despite the uncertainty of it all.