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Londoners    by Craig Taylor Amazon.com order for
Londoners
by Craig Taylor
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Ecco, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Londoners is a wonderful book that captures the essence of a place by letting those who live there describe their feelings about their city.

Although rather long and awkward, this book's subtitle gives a good idea of what you'll find here - 'The Days and Nights of London Now As Told By those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It And Long for It' is certainly a mouthful, but now you get the idea of what you are in for when you begin reading.

In their own voices, eighty Londoners give you their 'insider's view' of this sprawling metropolis. To make these short, first person narratives more manageable, Taylor divides them into three parts and then arranges them by headings.

For example, under the Arriving heading you'll discover five individuals talking about the city. First, an airline pilot offers a short, two page view of London from the air as he guides a jetliner into Gatwick. Next is a much longer account of a young university graduate who just moved from Leeds to London to start his new life.

The last three people, a woman from Uganda, an American tourist and a new arrival from Iran, offer their views on either living in or visiting the British capital.

As you page through the table of contents you'll notice that Taylor has tried very hard to provide a real cross section of people. The long list includes a currency trader, manicurist, paramedic, and street cleaner as well as a dominatrix, Wiccan priestess, rickshaw driver and funeral director.

The social and cultural classes are also broadly represented with an old-age pensioner, the CEO of Canary Wharf Group PLC, a squatter, a property owner and a number of African and Asian immigrants.

Why write a book about the residents when London has so much history and so many remarkable sights? As far as the author is concerned that is all 'secondary to the lives of people here at the tail end of this first decade of the twenty-first century'.

He explains his rationale by writing in the book's introduction, 'I wanted to try to assemble a collage of voices that could yield a richness about a place and time ... I wanted to go beyond the news cycle and find real testimony in lively, demotic speech, as Studs Terkel and Ronald Blythe had done in their pioneering oral histories.'

It took five years and over 200 tape recorded interviews to create this book. The candid comments assembled here run the gamut from wise to ridiculous. And, most important of all, they have the ring of authenticity and make for an exceedingly entertaining read.

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