From the nitty-gritty to serendipity: The many faces of London

Not many places have inspired the imagination of countless writers quite the same way that London has for centuries. As the real and fictional home of monarchs and paupers, clever detectives and suave spies, London provides the perfect backdrop for romances and thrillers alike. 

Many famous authors, from William Shakespeare to Zadie Smith, have called London their home at one point or another in their lives. You can’t really walk down a street in London without seeing blue plaques dedicated to writers or characters who lived and worked in the vicinity. The fact is, that London has found its way onto the pages of their books, from quaint cobblestoned streets to wide open parks, and from old industrial complexes to high-tech skyscrapers. And the river Thames that connects them all. 

Even in fictional worlds it is still evident when a city is based on the real-world London blueprint. All it takes is a strategically placed name drop of a landmark or neighbourhood, and this whole map opens up in the readers’ minds. So much so, that even readers who have never set foot in London could probably guide you from any landmark down to the docks. London is just a lot less rainy and foggy, than they were led to believe. Consciously or subconsciously, we’ve all wandered London’s streets before.

Fictional London is so well-known universally that I dare to show you my mind-reading trick. Are you ready? Close your eyes. Think of London. Name the first fictional address that comes to mind.

It’s 221b Baker Street, right?

SASiety’s home is in the heart of Bloomsbury, in the iconic Senate House. The amazing Senate House Library is our upstairs neighbour. It seems only fitting that we showcase some of our favourite reads set in this multifaceted city of ours. Thus, the Literature in London series was born in which we will showcase a London-based book – fiction and non-fiction – every week. And this is where you come in! We’d love to hear about your favourite book(s) set in London, what the book is about and what it means to you. Get involved by emailing

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