London Burning by Anthony Quinn

I came by this book via Secret Readers spring choices. I am so glad I chose this one from the five that were on offer. It was something a bit different and I thought it was a brilliant read.

About the book

London, Burning is a novel about the end of the 1970s, and the end of an era. It concerns a nation divided against itself, a government trembling on the verge of collapse, a city fearful of what is to come, and a people bitterly suspicious of one another. In other words, it is also a novel about now.

Vicky Tress is a young policewoman on the rise who becomes involved in a corruption imbroglio with CID. Hannah Strode is an ambitious young reporter with a speciality for skewering the rich and powerful. Callum Conlan is a struggling Irish academic and writer who falls in with the wrong people. While Freddie Selves is a hugely successful theatre impresario stuck deep in a personal and political mire of his own making. These four characters, strangers at the start, happen to meet and affect the course of each other’s lives profoundly.

The story plots an unpredictable path through a city choked by strikes and cowed by bomb warnings. It reverberates to the sound of alarm and protest, of police sirens, punk rock, street demos, of breaking glass and breaking hearts in dusty pubs. As the clock ticks down towards a general election old alliances totter and the new broom of capitalist enterprise threatens to sweep all before it. It is funny and dark, violent but also moving.

What I thought

Oooh, I really enjoyed this book. Genre? I have no idea. I don’t know which of my bookshelves on this blog I’m going to put it on. A mixture I’d say – a bit of everything.

It’s set in the late 70’s, so a little bit of historical fiction, depending on how old you are of course. I was around 16/17 when this book was set, so it’s a part of my youth, though punk rock and The Clash were not a genre of music I was remotely interested in though they feature in this book. I was more the disco diva of the times – Earth Wind and Fire, Chic, that kind of thing.

Politics of the times are also referred to throughout, when the country was held to ransom by the unions and Labour with Jim Callaghan at the helm were in charge of running the country. Also a time when London and other cities in England were under constant threat of being blown to smithereens at the hands of the IRA.

At the beginning of the book the reader is gradually introduced to each of the four main characters. All strangers to begin with but as time moves on become more interlinked within the plot. A journalist, a policewoman, an English Literature lecturer in college and a theatrical director each have their own story to tell.

It’s difficult to say any more about the book without giving away the plot. It’s a mixed bag of all sorts, politics – though nothing too heavy, crime/thriller, some police corruption, even a smidgen of romance all adds to the enjoyment of this story.

I loved the way it is written, moving the reader from one scene to another to concentrate on each of the characters. It makes for compelling reading, and I was sorry to reach the end. I would definitely read more books from this author. In fact I have my eye on one of his books The Streets. Again set in London but this time the year is 1882.

♥ Happy Reading ♥

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The book was published in April 2021 and is available in e-book, hardback and audio with the paperback due to be published early on next year. Here is the link for Amazon but is available from all booksellers.

Thanks to Secret Readers for my copy of the e-book.

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