Borough Press August 2018
EVERY LINE TELLS A DIFFERENT STORY
A troubled young woman travels across London to end an abusive relationship. An agitated father gets lost in the city with an injured toddler. Two men – who unknowingly cross paths every day – finally meet one life-changing afternoon. A sudden death on the platform of Blackfriars sparks rumours of murder.
Underground, we are at once isolated and connected. We avoid eye contact and conversation while our lives literally intersect with those of strangers. As we stand on the tube, it becomes possible to travel far further than expected – and the sense of possibility lies at the heart of this stunning collection.
Twelve writers explore life on the London Underground through eleven short stories and one memoir, commissioned to mark the opening of the Elizabeth line.
I bought this a couple of years ago, I liked the cover and the premise appealed to me. I picked it up now as a book to read before a buddy read – I am usually a very monogamous reader so short stories work well if I have other reading commitments prior to finishing. And I am pleased to say this book really didn’t disappoint.
A few things struck as we are in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic – how the London Underground was something we took for granted, a fantastic network of subways, easy to use and servicing all of London. The crowds are referenced and unsurprisingly I wondered when next I would be visiting London and using this network. Across all of the stories I was struck by the transitory nature of the journey, not really anywhere, somewhere between, but an important journey made frequently by many.
Some of the stories used the subway journey as a metaphor for death and ways of connecting with this, capitalising on the premise of people not noticing others, the close physical proximity resulting in reduced eye contact and what happens when we do notice. The journey was a time for reflection and I recognised myself as one of the Underground’s ‘thinkers’ rarely reading or on my phone, but just thinking.
The fears were touched upon – the suspicion with which we now use the Tube – alert to terrorism and the fearful ‘suicide bomber’ vigilant for bags and other abandoned items that could cause harm. The fear to act resonated with me – to look a fool, or worse, to be accused of racism for wrongly raising a concern.
Each story covered a different tube line as people made their journey, getting from A to B and the stories were rich and varied. A sad memoir at the end closed the book which was otherwise all fiction and this was about the tube stations as markers for memories of a life lived.
Twelve authors contribute to this truly great collection which would make a great gift, for yourself or someone else!
James Smythe – Elizabeth
Matthew Plampin – District
Joanna Cannon – Circle
Lionel Shriver – Piccadilly
Kat Gordon – Northern
Joe Mungo Reed – Waterloo & City
Tyler Keevil – Central
Layla AlAmmar – Jubilee
Janice Pariat – Victoria
Tamsin Grey – Metropolitan
Katy Mahood – Bakerloo
Louisa Young – Hammersmith & City
The London Underground
The London Underground opened in 1863. As of 2018, there are 12 lines and 270 stations, across 250 miles of tract, 109 of which is in tunnels. The longest continuous tunnel is over 17 miles, from East Finchley to Morden, while the longest continuous journey is 34 miles, from West Ruislip to Epping. There are 440 escalators and 188 lifts. The tube carries 1.37 billion passengers each year.