This latest entry in National Geographics series of famous writers on famous cities is like the British dish bubble and squeak: a hash of thrown together bits and pieces that might be tasty but isnt very filling. An avid reader, Quindlen (Living Out Loud, etc.) developed an acute case of literature-induced Anglophilia at an early age. As a precocious youngster, she was enchanted by the terrace houses, green squares and horse-drawn carriages of the written worlds of Daniel Defoe, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens and Henry Jamess London. Later swept away by Virginia Woolf and the Mitford sisters, Quindlen doesnt actually visit London until her mid-40s while on a trip to promote one of her own books. Quindlens narrative essays, while thematic, lack enough specific locations to make them consistently interesting. While she comments on the extraordinary fact that one can still find ones way around London based on 18th-century literary plot points, she doesnt take explicit literary tours herself, leaving readers to wonder to what extent the expectations of a lifelong love affair with the London of her mental library are met. Instead, Quindlen shifts the focus away from herself and toward her experience of traveling with her 20-something writer son, comparing and contrasting their generational impressions of the city. Map not seen by PW.
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Best-selling novelist and Newsweek columnist Quindlen has always been an “indefatigable” reader, and British novels set in London, “indisputably the capital of literature,” have been a particular passion. Quindlen acquired a vivid impression of the city from absorbing Dickens, Eliot, Galsworthy, Doyle, Woolf, and Lessing, writers for whom London was as much a living character as their indelible protagonists. But she admits she was reluctant to travel there and obliterate the imagined with the actual. Finally, a book tour sends her to this fabled place, and she does revel in London’s evocative complexity as she undertakes pilgrimages to literary landmarks. Deftly contrasting “the London frozen in the amber of great fiction” with today’s city, Quindlen discerns the key lesson of English literature: the “unvarying nature both of social problems and personal dramas.” The continuity that links, for instance, characters and predicaments in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane (2003) to those in Dickens’ works. A consistently enlightening and enjoyable writer, Quindlen presents a smart, bookish, wry, and stimulating portrait of the most literary of cities. Donna Seaman
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Anna Quindlen first visited London from a chair in her suburban Philadelphia homein one of her beloved childhood mystery novels. She has been back to London countless times since, through the pages of books and in person, and now, in Imagined London, she takes her own readers on a tour of this greatest of literary cities.
While New York, Paris, and Dublin are also vividly portrayed in fiction, it is London, Quindlen argues, that has always been the star, both because of the primacy of English literature and the specificity of city descriptions. She bases her view of the city on her own detailed literary map, tracking the footsteps of her favorite characters: the places where Evelyn Waugh’s bright young things danced until dawn, or where Lydia Bennett eloped with the dastardly Wickham.
In Imagined London, Quindlen walks through the city, moving within blocks from the great books of the 19th century to the detective novels of the 20th to the new modernist tradition of the 21st. With wit and charm, Imagined London gives this splendid city its full due in the landscape of the literary imagination.
Praise for Imagined London:
“Shows just how much a reading experience can enrich a physical journey.” New York Times Book Review
“An elegant new work of nonfiction… People will be inspired by this book.” Ann Curry, Today
“An affectionate, richly allusive tribute to the city.” Kirkus Reviews
Lonely Planet London Encounter
“…a complete city guide boiled down to its essences, a sort of text-messaged guidebook with photos and quotes from locals geared to a savvy weekend visitor.” –Chicago Tribune, August 5, 2007 –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
What Will Your London Encounter Be?
Becoming a cocktail connoisseur in Notting Hill’s ultra-cool bars
Learning the Tower of London’s gruesome history with a Beefeater as your guide
Bargain-hunting in Spitalfields’ vintage designer clothes shops
Eating your way around the world at London’s many ethnic restaurants
Enjoying a duck’s-eye view of the city on a boat trip along the Thames
Hearing the next big thing before anyone else at a Camden Town gig
Discover Twice the City in Half the Time
Full-color pull-out map and detailed neighborhood maps for easy navigation
Our expert author recommends the very best sights, restaurants, shops and bars
Unique itineraries help you get the most out of your visit
Locals share their London secrets: from a British Museum curator’s BM highlights to a Notting Hill bar manager’s top local drinking spots