Posted 20 hours ago

A Stranger City

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It seemed it had an interesting array of characters with the action, initially, zeroing in on those with a link to an unidentified body fished out of the Thames. A Stranger City is a sinuous tale centring on a documentary about the recovery of a female body from The Thames, identity still unknown six months later. Her situation underlines how easy it is for someone to become invisible if they are not part of a community. Grant clearly completly lost her way about a third in and the publishing house did a poor job allowing this to go out in its present form.

The horrors depicted by Linda Grant are fairly low key: a general distrust of foreigners, institutionalised deportation via train and prison ship.

She was educated at the Belvedere School (GDST), read English at the University of York, completed an M. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and holds honorary doctorates from the University of York and John Moores University. The many strands of the novel are cleverly interwoven to provide a complex and panoramic portrait of contemporary society in London and the storyline, although fragmented, is compelling enough to engage the reader’s attention throughout.

Grant is a piercing analyst of relationships too (her Austen-like knack for narratorial irony is particularly delicious when dissecting Alan and Francesca's early romance). It’s a London book and it’s a book that is framed by immigration and the ongoing consequences of the UK referendum and the 52% majority in favour of leaving the EU. Its diversity has demanded a plurality of voices, a polyphony you find from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales onwards. A Stranger City is successful in depicting a multicultural society; it makes interesting political points showing the contradiction between the current insularity and the aspirations of individual members of that society.The policeman investigating this ‘missing person’ is obsessed with her because she is not a street person, she is well-dressed but there is nothing to identify her.

Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of focus on Brexit and xenophobia resulting from it, as well as the idea of London as a place you might be born in, come to, or leave. In 2016 she began writing an account of that bleak day in a wintry East London cemetery, and at the same time overheard an ugly scene between a young man and young woman on a train into Moorgate from Alexandra Palace.It’s the type of book that will be nominated for some obscure literary prize hailed as an insight to modern London. I really enjoyed A Stranger City, a book that begins with a body in the Thames and with a bold nod at Dickens's Our Mutual Friend. Much as I loved the first half of the book, Grant’s writing has a wonderful, descriptive, flowing style, I felt my enthusiasm waning, and I can’t really put my finger on any particular reason.

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