As you can see from the cover, the full title of this book is Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now – As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long For It. It is QUITE the mouthful, isn’t it? As the title and his introduction prove, Taylor does love to use 50 words when 5 will do, but that is totally forgivable, since after the introduction, his intrusions are minimal and he lets the Londoners do the talking.
Taylor is a Canadian ex-pat whose fascination and love of London, his experiencing of it as an outsider has led him to compile this extraordinary collection of interviews. The breadth and depth of interviewees is staggering in itself. The interview with the woman who recorded all the announcements you hear on the London Underground is wondrous, not because she goes into detail of the audition process and so on, but because she reveals how her ex-boyfriend feels haunted as he hears her voice every day. It’s details like that which make this such a rich tapestry.
And it is truly a marvel. People who smuggled themselves into London and couldn’t think of living anywhere else are sharply contrasted with people who felt swallowed up by it and couldn’t wait to leave. New mums, OAPs, eye witnesses to the 2011 riots, paramedics, police officers, immigrants, transsexuals, bouncers, pilots, nail bar technicians, students, lovers, artists, musicians, market traders, taxi drivers, they’re ALL here. And they all have something wonderful to impart. I devoured the book whole, pretty much, in a weekend. I found myself laughing, agreeing, disagreeing, sympathising, and infuriated by what I read in it. Taylor has forged a 460 page snapshot 21st Century London and for that he can only be applauded If you have any kind of London connection as laid out in the title, then this oral history is a vital must read.