sixty-four

Read IN BED: Paradise City

Words & Images by Hannah-Rose Yee

"The kettle boils and Esme makes herself a cup of milky tea, then retreats back into bed with the mug and her filo pastry roll. She spreads the paper out in front of her and reads the first paragraph."__- Paradise City, Elizabeth Day I wasn't expecting this book. In more ways than one: it arrived in the mail unannounced, but also I didn't expect what it would turn out to be. Not only a meditation on life in London (I thought I was going to get a bit of a light, Alexander McCall Smith sort of community novel), but a moral fable that deals with everything from serial killers (!) to sexual abuse (!!!) and adjusting to life as an asylum seekers (!!!). Don't let that put you off, or, maybe, please let that get you interested, because this book is remarkable. I devoured it in a day spent recovering from jet lag, and there's a touch of otherworldliness to it. It's a book that is almost out of time. It follows four Londoners and the way their lives unfurl and, occasionally, collide quite spectacularly in the city they call home. There's Esme Reade, a journalist battling away on a Sunday paper, there's Beatrice Kizza, a Ugandan refugee recently arrived in London, Carol Hetherington, a woman adjusting to her recent widowed status and Sir Howard Pink, a self-made millionaire with a string of high street stores. No surprises, I found myself identifying so closely with Esme: the young writer, slogging it out in her job, trying to work out whether this posh guy likes her or not. But I also started seeing myself in Beatrice, who is so steadfast in her beliefs, and who stands up for herself in the most dramatic way. I admired her courage... Like I said: I wasn't expecting this book.