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London Made Us: A Memoir of a Shape-Shifting City Reviews

London Made Us: A Memoir of a Shape-Shifting City by Robert Elms

London Made Us: A Memoir of a Shape-Shifting City

Robert Elms

3.50 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Canongate Books Ltd
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Publication date: 7 Mar 2019
ISBN: 9781786892119

A personal journey - part anecdotal, part impressionistic - through London's constantly shifting cityscape by BBC Radio London's Robert Elms

4 stars out of 5

"Robert Elms mourns the squats and slums of 1970s Notting Hill before luxury apartments, gyms and coffee chains spread throughout the city"

London Made Us is a deeply nostalgic memoir, a celebration of the dirty, slummy, sometimes dangerous and sickening but utterly vital past, and a stinging critique of present pseudo-posh. Yet Elms recognises, if sometimes reluctantly, the importance of the passions of young people in London today who know something of history. This last is a resolution of what might otherwise be too stark a paradox, but memoirs should offer at least a glimmer of hope, when the author himself is still alive to have it and share it with his family and readers.


3 stars out of 5
Fiona Sturges
24 Mar 2019

"The broadcaster and writer isn’t afraid of nostalgia in this part memoir, part cultural history. Is he pining for his youth?"

Elms’s book is perhaps best read less as a history of a city than as a nostalgia-soaked account of a middle-aged man pining for his youth. It’s significant that he opens with his mother’s final days in a hospital on Euston Road, during which she waved a frail hand towards the window and said: “This is no longer my London.” She had worked as a parlour maid in Belgravia and as a clippie on double-decker buses, but in her dotage the city had become a stranger. In London Made Us, Elms grieves both for his mother, who died a few days later, and for the city that forges forward irrespective of the wishes of those who live in it.

4 stars out of 5
Nicholas Lezard
28 Feb 2019

"a freewheeling book that revels in the tales it tells"

...this is a freewheeling book that revels in the tales it tells — and it tells plenty... “This cockney saudade is a common malaise,” he says earlier, of a yearning for places one didn’t actually grow up in (as an East Finchley boy, I know exactly what he means). But if you are reading this newspaper, ideally on public transport, then you are a part of London, like it or not — and this book will help you see it through new eyes. It is a delight.