Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now – As Told by Those who Love it, Hate it, Live it, Left it & Long for it by Craig Taylor (audiobook)

In brief: Exactly what the title says – Londoners in their own words.

The good: So many unusual and different aspects of life in a big city.

The not-so-good: Some people I would have liked to hear more of, others a little less.

Why I chose it: I liked the cover of the audiobook (looked like Tube line colours to me)

Year: 2011

Duration: 14 hours 14 minutes (book is 422 pages)

Narrators: Anna Bentinck, Stephen Crossley, Sartaj Garewell, Jo Hall, Robert Slade

Publisher: Granta

Setting: If you’re not sure, read the title again 😉

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.

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