Bookshops, coffee, cemeteries and lamingtons: Joy Rhoades’s hidden gems of London

Bookshops, coffee, cemeteries and lamingtons: Joy Rhoades’s hidden gems of London

We’ve all done the pints, fish-n-chips, the Crown Jewels and Pimm’s at Wimbledon. But there’s so much more to London, says expat Aussie author Joy Rhoades.

The Woolgrower's Companion by Joy Rhoades HB jacket3Aussie author Joy Rhoades’s debut novel The Woolgrower’s Companion is the best-selling fiction-debut in Australia this year and has just been launched in the UK by Penguin.

Now based in London, you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook where she posts about the city, coffee, writing and books.

In the meantime, we asked Joy to share some of her hidden London gems with our readers. Warning: plenty of books…


1: Great bookshops, unusual bookshops, with character and history, are my Kryptonite; I can browse for hours and usually leave with wonderful book(s) I didn’t come in for! So a favourite is John Sandoe Books in Chelsea. It’s what your imagination tells you an English bookshop will look like.

2:Every now and then, and especially of late, with the world going more nutty than usual, I crave one kind of comfort food, a bush-childhood goody: lamingtons. And there aren’t many places in London that make ‘em. Thank heavens then for the Department of Coffee. One (or possibly two) of their lamingtons with a great cup of coffee, and all feels right with the world again. Recommended.

3: You can take the girl out of the country, but, etc. So for all of London’s charms, I still hanker for some quiet solitude. One unexpected haven? Some of London’s cemeteries. Yep; gorgeous and often overgrown in places with brambles, I can wander and feel like I’m in the country; just me and the trees. One morning, I even saw a fox. We were both surprised. Recommended: Highgate and Brompton.

4: As a writer, I’m a sucker for stories that subvert your expectations, as if the story gods are messing with our heads. And I heard a true story recently that stuck with me. Take one boy, born in India, and give him a voice, a big, big voice. Shift him to Oz to study in Wagga Wagga, and have him join a heavy metal band as lead singer. But then, have him discovered as an opera singer, a prize-winning tenor, who loves heavy metal. Great story, huh? Watch out for tenor Shanul Sharma, who’s in London now and then.

5: I do like a wander around an English-village, and all the more, if I don’t have to leave London to do it. So here are two I love. First, hop on down to Dulwich Village. Pop in to see Hazel and the team at the wonderful Village Books. Then get along to the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

6: And another village-y feel, close to London? Beautiful Barnes. I like to watch the ducks on the Barnes pond, then wander past the 18th and 19th century buildings en route to the (rather fabulous) Barnes Bookshop (of course!).

7: Another wonderful bookshop that I love inside and out is the unlikely named Heyward Hill. Quietly run by people who really know their English fiction onions.

8: I love to get outside and London’s parks can be surprisingly unpeopled, especially early on or late, in the hour before closing. One visit to Bushy Park sticks in my mind’s eye; it was dusk on a cold winter’s day, and the leafless trees, were shown pink, reflecting in the water courses. Gorgeous. Oh, and look out for the deer!

9: Into fiction? Looking for something writer-ly you might not get in Oz? Take in The Riff Raff, the just-started readings night for debut authors in groovy Brixton. Full disclosure: I’m one of the authors and will be at the event on the 14th.

10: I love my bookclub. It was run by an indie bookshop that sadly went out of business recently, but the bookclub it spawned is alive and well, albeit pub-based. If you haven’t found the right London bookclub yet, here’s some suggestions:

Most libraries run them and their reader leaders are usually great – Check out here on for every choice imaginable, all in the London area. And take a look at too. Lots of locations in London and around the world. Fabulous.


Joy Rhoades: The Woolgrower’s Companion is published in hardback by Chatto & Windus, priced £12.99

The Woolgrower's Companion by Joy Rhoades HB jacket2