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Viper's Daughter

Five great reads with a local connection

Use that home time to curl up with a good book. Here’s Jenny Booth’s pick of the best with a connection to south west London

March Violets by Philip Kerr: irrepressible Berlin investigator Bernie Gunther despises the Nazis but has to work for them. For deep historical knowledge, a cracking pace, impudent plotting and many wry laughs, this black-edged detective novel set during the Third Reich is hard to beat. Wimbledon writer Kerr went on to create 14 Gunther books spanning 50 years from the Weimar Republic to the Cold War, ending with the stunning Metropolis which was published posthumously after Kerr’s tragically young death in 2018.

Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee: a charming childhood and coming-of-age memoir set in the Cotswolds between the wars, that mixes idyllic description with gritty details of growing up in rural poverty in a community little touched by the modern era. Lee lived and worked as builder’s labourer in Putney during the 1930s, and wrote about it in the second volume of his memoirs, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning.

Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver: (pictured top) critically acclaimed children’s adventure story set in the Stone Age which is equally beloved by adults, featuring outcast Torak and his pack brother, a wolf. Wimbledon writer Paver’s meticulous research produces vividly convincing details of life 9,000 years ago, while the plot cracks along at a great pace – read our interview with the writer in April’s edition online here.

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale: savage but funny historical satire depicts how the aboriginal inhabitants of Tasmania were wiped out by brutal British colonialists. In the main plotline, an English vicar is obsessed with the notion that the Garden of Eden is found in Tasmania; the story of his doomed expedition intertwines with many other tales. Kneale was brought up in Barnes.

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel: the climax of Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning trilogy that breathes life into Henry VIII’s ruthless consigliere Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell was born in poverty in Putney and was Lord of the Manor of Wimbledon from 1536 until his execution in 1540. Ben Miles, who played Cromwell in the stage adaptation of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, was born in Wimbledon.

and one that’s set in Wimbledon…

The Wimbledon Poisoner by Nigel Williams: a comic tale of mild-mannered murderer Henry Farr, a Wimbledon solicitor whose blundering attempts to dispose of his bullying wife only succeed in dispatching an ever-lengthening list of friends and neighbours. The book, by Putney writer Nigel Williams, was made into a television series starring Robert Lindsay and Alison Steadman.