Bookish Kensington

A swan in Kensington Gardens. ‘Kensington Gardens: Swan’ © 2008 Stefano Brivio, used under a Creative Commons license.(

A swan in Kensington Gardens. ‘Kensington Gardens: Swan’ © 2008 Stefano Brivio, used under a Creative Commons license.(

As much as the media keeps saying that people do not like to read, I find the opposite to be true. Many of the guests that come into my hotel in Kensington ask me for new book recommendations, and one of the most popular corners of our establishment is the one where we keep the bookcase of paperbacks that guests can borrow or swap for one of their own books.

However, there comes a point when one runs out of book recommendations. Even the best-read of individuals – which I do not claim to be in the slightest! – only knows so many books, and I am sure I have recommended certain books to guests at my hotel at least five times! Besides, all I can go on are my personal tastes, and not everyone likes the same things, so I am not surprised in the slightest when some of my suggestions fall flat. You can’t be right every time!

I believe, however, that I may have a new go-to book to recommend to guests at my hotel in Kensington from now on. It is a collection of short stories which I just found online whilst browsing to see if there were any books specifically set in our wonderful area of London, other than my beloved ‘A Far Cry From Kensington’. I did not find any other full-length novels, but I did find this compilation, in which one of the stories is set in Kensington Gardens.

Entitled ‘Park Stories’, this collection allows readers to take a tour past London’s main green spaces from the comfort of their own home (or their hotel in Kensington, as the case may be). It is comprised of eight short stories, each given their own separate book and focusing on a different London park or garden. Our wonderfully scenic Kensington Gardens are represented in a tale entitled A Beauty Parlour For Swans, which has the particularity of being written in both Arabic and English, which I find wonderfully exotic! In it, an Arabic girl on a trip to London visits Kensington Gardens and has some sort of illicit liaison there… all very mysterious!

However, just because of the setting and the original idea of the collection as a whole, I am adding this to my list of book recommendations even before reading it. If you have any interest in London parks and gardens, I urge you to give this short story compilation a try – and I will certainly speak to hotel management about acquiring at least the volume about Kensington.