7 Clapham Reads
7 Clapham Reads
Clapham and its common in particular, seems to attract writers, here’s seven Clapham reads to lose yourself in
The End of the Affair
Most famously, Clapham Common is the setting for Graham Greene’s WWII novel The End of the Affair (1951). A story of love, friendship and betrayal, Greene lived at 14, Clapham Common Northside which still exists today. It was bombed during Blitz and he included that experience in another war-time novel The Ministry of Fear (1943). Both books were made into films, the former on two occasions and gaining Oscar nominations.
But Greene isn’t the only modern author to conjure up the open spaces of the Common. In his Booker Prize short-listed Atonement (2001) Ian McEwan had his heroine Cecilia and her nemesis Briony both live in or around Clapham during WWII, particularly around Clapham South, where both characters train to be nurses.
The New Mrs Clifton
Elizabeth Buchan’s The New Mrs Clifton (2017) is a more recent take on Clapham in the years immediately after the end of WWII, the aftermath of continued rationing and shortages, the blighted lives and petty revenges all wrapped up in an intriguing mystery. Elizabeth is a co-founder of the Clapham Book Festival.
John Lanchester’s Clapham read Capital (2012) is set almost wholly in Clapham just before the financial crisis of 2008, on the fictional Pepys Road, so named because during the later years of his life Samuel Pepys lived and died in Clapham. Characters regularly run, walk, sit and meet on the Common and it’s so acutely observed readers may think they recognise pretty much everywhere in it. Pepys Road could be so many of the roads around the Common, even down to the corner shop and the ever patrolling traffic wardens. Unsurprisingly, Lanchester and his wife, M.J.Carter, are residents of Clapham. Miranda, the author of the Blake and Avery novels, took part in the 2016 Clapham Book Festival.
More recently Anne-Marie Neary set The Orphans (2017) in part on Clapham Common. Anne-Marie, who appeared at the 2017 Book Festival, is a Clapham resident and her heroine lives in one of the roads on the Common and it is there that the exciting denouement of the novel takes place.
If it’s excitement and mystery you’re after why not try the bang up to date and very topical Plague by Julie Anderson (Claret Press, 2020). The central character lives in Clapham, near the Common, but the events of the novel happen across present day London, from Mayfair to Elephant & Castle, showing the capital in all its variation and diversity. The second victim is found at an old tube depot in Lambeth, but has links to Westminster and Parliament. Begun in 2018, the writer found elements of the plot playing out in real life and featuring in the news in 2020.
Read a preview of Julie’s book Plague in our Art of Lockdown round-up. She is also a co-founder of Clapham Book Festival.
My Clapham – a year in the life of this fabulous part of town
Clapham sits on a hill and when travelling south was the first piece of high ground travellers encountered, so in the old days it was attractive to settlers wishing to escape the Thames floodplain. Nothing from these times still exists and you must move to the late 1700s to discover anything that remains, mainly in Old Town and along North Side. In this new book from local photographer, Andrew Wilson, discover much of this history, placed in a modern context together with some wonderful photography of the Common through the seasons. The locals are rightly proud of their open space, one of the largest in London and its one of the main reasons that Clapham is such a desirable place to live and work. Published by Unity Print and Publishing.
Clapham Common Bandstand: photo by Andrew Wilson