Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London (2011)

Four hours. Four long hours. Four long hours in a waiting room, no less. All at the dusty end of a Bank Holiday.61oyozzwsdl

Add in the twisting warp in the time-space continuum that only banal form filling and playing Snake on a Nokia can create and it could so easily have transmogrified into more.

Pretty hard on the soul, eh?

But LO! What light breaketh through the ‘Meh Green’ and conformity-inducing gloom? Why, t’is the first of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London. My wander through the back streets of Aaronovitch’s London drowned out the clicketty-clacketty echoes of the receptionist typing in endless names and numbers, all sound and fury.

I’m late to this party, but what a party it is. You like rollicking London fiction? Or Miéville-style science fiction without the grand intellectual cartwheels? Read it fast and in one sitting. Run, don’t walk.

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Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories (2005)

It’s hard to describe the appeal of Alan Bennett. His writing is unassuming, even stealthy. When momentous events happen they pass swiftly and suddenly, as they often do in real life, whilst more private moments swell over time.
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The lives of his parents are humorously recalled. He assumes a certain self-awareness in his readers, expecting you to recognise echoes of the tragi-comedy of your own life, your own poor decisions and wrong paths taken. The frailty of relationships is an undercurrent – how parents and children survive with one another through leaving the right things unsaid.
He writes about people who are long dead, but captures how the dead still echo in the mind, sometimes to come back at absurd moments in busy lives – waiting in traffic, over the dishes at the kitchen sink, ‘Oh, is it really you?’

The city of Leeds is a moving presence, so sad and weary that the very bricks seem to creak.  Full of character and yet a place furrowed with the cruel mantraps of class. Subtle, understated and catches somewhere deep.

Francis Ponge’s Soap (1969)

Old comic books in the attic, dusty trinkets under the bed and sparkly nail polish trapped at ponge-soapthe back of the drawer… happy surprises are everywhere, waiting to be discovered. And Francis Ponge’s Soap is one of them.

It’s a rhapsody on the theme of, um, soap. Started in 1943, when a good bar of soap was hard to get hold of in occupied Paris; and eventually completed in 1965. Ponge fondles and caresses his topic until it wanes away to nothing…