With the nights drawing in and an autumn chill in the air, cosy evenings spent curled up with a pot of tea and good book are back on the agenda. So find your slippers, pop the kettle on and settle in for Hyde Park Residence’s top books about London – the autumn edition.
Mayfair, London, has long been associated with elegance and luxury. However, there is a rich literary tradition associated with the borough that encompasses some of the capital’s brightest and most curious inhabitants. From world-famous writers to the most wondrous and villainous of characters, Mayfair village is brimming with literary ghosts and remarkable tales.
Sense and Sensibility (1811) – Jane Austen
Marking Austen’s literary debut, this paragon of the English canon tells of the lives and loves of the Dashwood sisters as they come of age, flitting between the English countryside and Mayfair’s high society.
Scenes of London Life from Sketches by Boz (1947) – Charles Dickens
An eclectic collection of thirteen stories from Dicken’s Sketches by Boz, selected by J.B Priestley, document the raucous lives of the city’s inhabitants: orphans, murderers, sex workers and lord mayors. One of the city’s most famous and treasured writers, Dickens lived all over London during his lifetime and rented houses in Hyde Park during the summer season, which he declared ‘the park par excellence’.
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) – Oscar Wilde
Living in Mayfair’s Grosvenor Square between 1883-84, Oscar Wilde was a regular in the artistic quarter along Half Moon Street. The hedonism and excess of that lifestyle is explored in his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, a classic of gothic satire.
London. Portrait of a City (2022) – edited by Reuel Golden
A stunning collection of images featuring the architecture, landmarks, style, and streets of one of the world’s most iconic capitals. Alongside the abundance of images are essays, film and book references and quotations documenting the city’s complex history from the swinging ‘60’s to the 2012 Olympics. This is one of the most beautiful and informative books about London around.
The Queen’s Diamonds (2012) – Hugh Roberts
This book is the first authorised account chronicling the history of some of the finest jewellery in the world. Published on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, it tells the story of the inheritance of the royal diamonds from Queen Adelaide in the 1830s through to the present day. Illustrated with a wide range of archival material as well as new photography of the jewels, this book captures the magic behind these fabled stones.
Florence Nightingale’s London: An A-Z of the Lady with the Lamp is part guidebook, part biography, resulting in a highly personal exploration of London. The book deftly weaves together the life of one of Mayfair’s most significant residents – the social reformer and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale – with some of the neighbourhood’s best kept secrets. Find out where Florence bought her perfume and what the Nightingale Jewel is. Packed full of stories, facts and walking tours for an enlightening afternoon in and around Mayfair village. For younger audiences Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories Gruesome Guides: London is sure to delight and disgust.
If you have junior members of the family with an appetite for stories there are plenty of classic British yarns for you all to explore. Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola: We Must Completely Go To London follows the siblings on a momentous school trip to the capital, and Michael Bond’s Paddington at the Palace sees our favourite marmalade-munching bear exploring Buckingham Palace. For younger readers HarperCollins’s Paddington Pop-Up London is an interactive journey through the city with the same furry guide.
Author, illustrator and Londoner Quentin Blake has multiple novels that always bring a smile, whether it’s the ambitious and inventive Mrs Armitage on Wheels or the touching account of pavement artist Sid Bunkin and his two angelic friends Corky and Loopy in Angel Pavement. Other options include Roald Dahl and his much-loved The BFG, J.M. Barrie’s historic Peter Pan, and for slightly older audiences Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke, which sees the lead character Sally descend into the depths of a dangerous and eerie Victorian London.