Anna Quindlen first visited London from a chair in her suburban Philadelphia home—in 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
This latest entry in National Geographic's 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 isn't 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 James's London. Later swept away by Virginia Woolf and the Mitford sisters, Quindlen doesn't actually visit London until her mid-40s while on a trip to promote one of her own books. Quindlen's 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 one's way around London based on 18th-century literary plot points, she doesn't 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.