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A Stranger City Reviews

A Stranger City by Linda Grant

A Stranger City

Linda Grant

3.89 out of 5

6 reviews

Imprint: Virago Press Ltd
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publication date: 2 May 2019
ISBN: 9780349010502

A brilliant novel about the London of today - a shifting, exciting, dangerous place where people search for the meaning of home. Peopled with wonderful characters and, as is usual for this author, a provocative story about our times.

2 stars out of 5
23 May 2019

Grant tries to make a virtue of narrative irresolution. We do find out a bit about the drowned woman, but with the exception of Pete, her other characters feel distant. This is probably her point, that London is a vast, alienating current that resists coherence and connections, forever churning up its inhabitants and their unfulfilled dreams. It’s an unsatisfactory get-out clause, if so.


4 stars out of 5
Alexander Larman
19 May 2019

"a witty and rueful novel about modern London"

While other novelists are distracted by Brexit, explicitly or obliquely, Linda Grant’s perspective is far wider. Her latest begins with a dead body being fished from the Thames, which seems to set up a mystery, but Grant is more interested in corralling her characters through a witty and rueful account of contemporary London. Many are newcomers to the city, and this wise and compassionate book asks if we can ever truly belong in a vast metropolis or are destined to do little more than ripple the waters and then be forgotten.

3 stars out of 5
Alex O’Connell
26 Apr 2019

"The novel is busy with sights, sounds and people but, like the city, it occasionally proves exhausting and confusing"

A Stranger City is a lush love letter to London that asks questions about what cost Brexit will have on her adopted city and its diverse inhabitants... Despite the odd lapse into absurdity, this is an enjoyable read; the history and ideas about what makes a city tick tumble out of her pen, and she draws her characters with a realist’s attention to detail. Yet, like the city itself, the story can feel untamed and the chapters suffer from poor signposting. With such a cast list it is easy to get lost and sometimes I found myself not knowing which strand we were in until two pages into a new chapter. Which, come to think of it, feels like an apt metaphor for Brexit itself.

4 stars out of 5
Suzi Feay
26 Apr 2019

"a novel fit for our shifting, uncertain times"

Linda Grant’s new novel is concerned with those who are blown to London by political storms, aiming to stay for good but ever alert to the possibility that a root may turn out merely to be a roosting place. Brexit is the undertow, the change in the wind that makes the inhabitants twitch and shiver. What seemed permanent is now crumbling; the capital is atomised, all societal ties falling apart... Londoners of all ages, backgrounds and hues throng the novel, which takes us back to some of the territory Grant explored in her previous novel The Clothes on Their Backs (a knowing reference to which is included in this latest book)... The plot’s seemingly haphazard quality mirrors the contingency of urban life but the way Grant makes even the minor characters flare into life gives the novel richness and depth. A compelling portrait of contemporary London, it’s a novel fit for shifting, uncertain times.

4 stars out of 5
Jane Shilling
25 Apr 2019

"Grant is superb on London life"

Billed as ‘a novel about now, and the day after tomorrow’, this is an examination of Brexit Britain in which the ‘B’ word is never mentioned...

Grant is superb on London life, which is at once atomised and seen as a web of unlikely connections.

However, as her by turns humorous and horrifying tale circles and deepens, her deft peeling back of the capital’s layers raises increasingly unsettling questions about where all of us might be heading.

5 stars out of 5
18 Apr 2019

"a witty, sunlounger-accessible and deeply humanising story about people — about us"

...this is no weighty, state-of-the-nation tome to be struggled through. Grant tackles Brexit, terrorism, acid attacks, racism, social media, climate change — every headline which daily sends seismic shudders through London — with the lightest of touches. This is a book to whizz through breathlessly. And to laugh at... A Stranger City feels like a very important novel for right now: no politically ponderous diatribe but a witty, sunlounger-accessible and deeply humanising story about people — about us — and the societal shipwreck we’re stuck in.