Going Underground

Look what arrived in the post the other day!

That was a very pleasant surprise – Penguin kindly sent me the Penguin Lines collection – a series of stories celebrating 150 years of the London Underground, each (as you see) the colour of a tube line.  The British Transport Museum, incidentally, offers milkshakes in every colour of the tube map – which sounds like a lovely idea until you realise that one of them will have to be grey.

It’s no secret here that I don’t much like London, and I certainly don’t any fondness for the Underground – but I *do* have a huge fondness for any Penguin series, and have their Great Loves and English Journeys boxsets.  My collecting instinct and love of sets, not to mention my love of colour, makes me already fall in love with this set, even though I’ve only actually heard of one of these authors (John Lanchester).

All the book and author info is here – perhaps you can advise me where to start?

37 thoughts on “Going Underground

  • March 22, 2013 at 12:42 am
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    These do look lovely! I would start with A Good Parcel of English Soil by Richard Mabey…but then I would also probably end there. It is the only one of these books that sounds at all interesting to me.

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    • March 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm
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      My collective instinct isn't always matched by my readerly one… I've not read any of the Great Journeys yet, for instance! But I still love 'em.

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  • March 22, 2013 at 2:07 am
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    So pretty! What a treat. No idea where to start, though – I haven't heard of any of the authors.

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    • March 22, 2013 at 10:12 pm
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      I do wonder whether they're obscure, or if it's just that those of us who love older writers don't know them…

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  • March 22, 2013 at 2:22 am
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    I love London (well, as a tourist at least, after only two visits admittedly) and I really like trains both above and below ground. The only author I have heard of from the pile is Richard Mabey. I am currently reading his (memoir?) Nature Cure for Cornflower's March Book Club pick. So that's two votes for Mabey. Also, you could also just pick the cover that pleases you best and start there.

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    • March 22, 2013 at 10:12 pm
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      Could be perfect for you then! And yes, Mabey might well be a good place to start. Covers could also work – I forgot to mention in the post that the authors designed the covers themselves.

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  • March 22, 2013 at 5:05 am
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    I went immediately towards John O'Farrell (grey milkshake) but having read the blurb I'm not sure I could cope with the claustrophobia!
    Definitely a very mixed bunch. I agree with Ruthiella – just grab a colour – or you could map a journey around the underground using a tube map – a kind of literary 'Mornington crescent'.
    (BTW grey milkshakes worry you? How about BLACK… given that milk is, I believe, naturally white?)

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  • March 22, 2013 at 7:54 am
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    I love living in London (except for the outrageous house prices) and I love our underground (and overground) railways too. I've now travelled (at my estimate) over 400,000 km on the Metropolitan line in the last 25 years and I've read a huge number of scientific papers and books while doing so. I've also seen some lovely wildlife and some fabulous people and made some good friends too.

    Why are you agin it?

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    • March 22, 2013 at 10:13 pm
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      For someone who loves the rural and isolated, the urban and crowded is always going to be a horror!

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    • March 23, 2013 at 10:36 am
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      But I love rural and isolated too! I don't see why they should be mutually incompatible.

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    • March 23, 2013 at 10:53 am
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      That seems very strange to me! They are opposites, after all. Everything I love about rural and isolated are the things I hate about urban and crowded.

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  • March 22, 2013 at 7:56 am
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    Hi – Peter York was famous in the 80s for his Sloane Ranger book – and is often on radio or tele talking about social trends (unless he is another Peter York)

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  • March 22, 2013 at 8:09 am
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    Oh these look WONDERFUL I'm quite jealous. I like the look of the E London Line one although disappointed it'a all about E London and not the dangly down end-y bit where I used to live. And the Central Line one looks great. Ooh I want these! Looking forward to your reviews!

    Liz

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    • March 22, 2013 at 10:14 pm
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      Parts of London mean nothing to me (I went to a party earlier in the week where lots of people complained about how South it was – for me, I got to Paddington and took the underground, which is true wherever I go!) but I take your point, Liz ;)

      Hope you manage to find these! Penguin might be selling them cheaply somewhere…

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  • March 22, 2013 at 8:38 am
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    Interesting concept. And they do look lovely! I find it hard to picture just what the books would be about, but as Claire mentioned it and looking at the cover, A Good Parcel of English Soil, definitely sounds interesting.

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    • March 22, 2013 at 10:15 pm
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      I will have to delve further! I, too, am a bit lost as to how they could be inspired by tube lines… but perhaps that's the non-Londoner in me speaking.

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  • March 22, 2013 at 10:23 am
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    You lucky, lucky thing!!!

    I have bought (brand new, with real money!) the volume by Paul Morley because he is one of my favourite writers EVER – so I highly recommend starting with his!

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    • March 22, 2013 at 10:18 pm
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      I am very lucky, I know! And a complete surprise – this enormous parcel was in front of my door when I got home yesterday.

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  • March 22, 2013 at 10:56 am
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    I haven't heard of any of these authors – which doesn't stop me wanting the whole set. John Lanchester's sounds interesting, going behind the scenes.

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    • March 22, 2013 at 10:19 pm
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      I love your first sentence! So true, that no knowledge is necessary to want them ALL.

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  • March 22, 2013 at 11:18 am
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    I must have these. Although I think All Passions Spent should have been used for the Northern Line.

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    • March 22, 2013 at 10:19 pm
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      I thought you might, Thomas! The Penguin sets must all appeal to your collecting instinct.

      Is APS set on/near the Northern Line? That's the sort of thing I would never notice.

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    • March 25, 2013 at 6:19 pm
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      Dark Puss is right. In fact there is a scene in the book where there reader follows the main character's thoughts as she travels through stops on the Northern Line. The crazy thing is that when I first read that passage in APS, I was actually on the same bit of the Northern Line described in the book. (And it was my first every Virago.)

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    • March 25, 2013 at 6:20 pm
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      And thankg goodness for The Book Depository. I just ordered the box set which is otherwise not available here.

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  • March 22, 2013 at 12:15 pm
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    The Blue Riband is the one I would dive straight into. The Piccadilly line is the one that takes me from Heathrow to Bloomsbury so my favourite (despite its reputation). You lucky thing, Simon, these books caught my eye a couple of weeks ago.

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    • March 22, 2013 at 10:20 pm
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      Does it have a reputation? Gracious, the things I don't know! But a lovely idea, reading them because of fondly remembered tube journeys.

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  • March 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm
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    How cool–I love those little Penguin editions, too (I have the Penguin Great food series and am trying to collect the Great Journeys), so I think I might have to break down and order these as well. I'm not familiar with most of the authors/stories however so will be curious to see what you think of them. What a treat to get the whole series at once. Thanks for the heads up.

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    • March 22, 2013 at 10:20 pm
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      Give in Dani ;)
      And it is reminding me that I must read more of the Great Loves – which is a really excellent selection.

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  • March 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm
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    I think Camilla Batmanthingummybob started a children's project/charity called Kids something or other to look after afterschool / street children in London. She's been on the radio a few times.

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  • March 22, 2013 at 11:15 pm
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    Oh the collection is so pretty. I would love to own it just for looking at it..like a painting

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  • March 24, 2013 at 6:53 pm
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  • March 26, 2013 at 3:23 pm
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    These look wonderful! for both presentation and content. Thanks for mentioning the other box sets as well – I'm about to dive into the delicious English Journeys :D

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