Imagined London: A Tour of the World's Greatest Fictional City

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Overview

"This book is a tale of three cities: the fictional London that lives in the pages of writers from Shakespeare to P. D. James and Martin Amis; the historical metropolis where so many immortal authors have made their homes; and the vibrant capital that today welcomes visitors from all over the world. Anna Quindlen evokes all three as she travels from Sherlock Holmes's digs at 221b Baker Street (as real an imaginary address as there ever was), to Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey, a memorial to the greatest writers of our language, to Hyde Park
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Imagined London: A Tour of the World's Greatest Fictional City

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Overview

"This book is a tale of three cities: the fictional London that lives in the pages of writers from Shakespeare to P. D. James and Martin Amis; the historical metropolis where so many immortal authors have made their homes; and the vibrant capital that today welcomes visitors from all over the world. Anna Quindlen evokes all three as she travels from Sherlock Holmes's digs at 221b Baker Street (as real an imaginary address as there ever was), to Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey, a memorial to the greatest writers of our language, to Hyde Park Gate, the genteel neighborhood from which Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga unfolds. We stroll through elegant squares that summon the ghosts of characters from Thackeray and Trollope, and pause at a pub whose ornate sign would be familiar to anyone - real or fictional - from Shakespeare's era to today." At once a tribute to one of the world's greatest cities and a freewheeling celebration of the rich literature it has inspired, this is a writer's vision of a world both imagined and utterly true - all gathered, refracted, and reflected in a magical mirror called London.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Dr. Watson once described London as "that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained." Fortunately, others have experienced the city on the Thames more sympathetically. In Imagined London, American novelist Anna Quindlen describes her lifelong love affair with London.
Pamela Paul
Rather than lead us to the usual landmarks, Quindlen muses on her real passion: English literature and its London legacy. No literary snob, she veers from Henry to P. D. James and explores Sherlock Holmes's beat, Nancy Mitford's romps and Evelyn Waugh's targets, with room for plenty of Dickens. Best read by committed Anglophiles, Quindlen's appreciation of the literary city shows just how much a reading experience can enrich the physical journey.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
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. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Quindlen indulges her love of London with a short but satisfying tour of the real and the imagined city. Though she has visited London innumerable times in the pages of literature, she did not make her first real trip there until 1995. Here, she takes the reader with her as she discovers her imagined London and recalls the pages and places of writers from Shakespeare and Dickens to Kathleen Winsor, Martin Amis, and Zadie Smith. Musing on London as literary home for both writers and their stories, Quindlen finds a familiar presence in the streets, squares, and landmarks, notes the blue enamel plaques designating writers' houses, recognizes the slang, and runs into literary ghosts around every bend. Recommended for public and undergraduate libraries, and all Anglophiles. [Quindlen's book is the latest entry in the "National Geographic Directions" series, in which literary greats e.g., Robert Hughes in the recently released Barcelona reflect on their favorite places. Ed.] Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Coll. Lib., Rindge, NH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780792242079
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society
  • Publication date: 1/17/2006
  • Series: National Geographic Directions Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 689,423
  • Product dimensions: 5.57 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen is the author of three best-selling novels, Object Lessons, One True Thing, and Black and Blue. Her latest novel, Blessings, came out in 2002. Her New York Times column "Public and Private" won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992; a selection of those columns was published in the book Thinking Out Loud. She is also author of a collection of her "Life in the 30's" columns, Living Out Loud; a book for the Library of Contemporary Thought, How Reading Changed My Life; and two children's books, The Tree That Came to Stay and Happily Ever After. She is currently a columnist for Newsweek and resides with her husband and children in New York City.

Biography

Anna Quindlen could have settled onto a nice, lofty career plateau in the early 1990s, when she had won a Pulitzer Prize for her New York Times column; but she took an unconventional turn, and achieved a richer result.

Quindlen, the third woman to hold a place among the Times' Op-Ed columnists, had already published two successful collections of her work when she decided to leave the paper in 1995. But it was the two novels she had produced that led her to seek a future beyond her column.

Quindlen had a warm, if not entirely uncritical, reception as a novelist. Her first book, Object Lessons, focused on an Irish American family in suburban New York in the 1960s. It was a bestseller and a Times Notable Book of 1991, but was also criticized for not being as engaging as it could have been. One True Thing, Quindlen's exploration of an ambitious daughter's journey home to take care of her terminally ill mother, was stronger still—a heartbreaker that was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep. But Quindlen's fiction clearly benefited from her decision to leave the Times. Three years after that controversial departure, she earned her best reviews yet with Black and Blue, a chronicle of escape from domestic abuse.

Quindlen's novels are thoughtful explorations centering on women who may not start out strong, but who ultimately find some core within themselves as a result of what happens in the story. Her nonfiction meditations—particularly A Short Guide to a Happy Life and her collection of "Life in the 30s" columns, Living Out Loud—often encourage this same transition, urging others to look within themselves and not get caught up in what society would plan for them. It's an approach Quindlen herself has obviously had success with.

Good To Know

To those who expressed surprise at Quindlen's apparent switch from columnist to novelist, the author points out that her first love was always fiction. She told fans in a Barnes & Noble.com chat, "I really only went into the newspaper business to support my fiction habit, but then discovered, first of all, that I loved reporting for its own sake and, second, that journalism would be invaluable experience for writing novels."

Quindlen joined Newsweek as a columnist in 1999. She began her career at the New York Post in 1974, jumping to the New York Times in 1977.

Quindlen's prowess as a columnist and prescriber of advice has made her a popular pick for commencement addresses, a sideline that ultimately inspired her 2000 title A Short Guide to a Happy Life. Quindlen's message tends to be a combination of stopping to smell the flowers and being true to yourself. Quindlen told students at Mount Holyoke in 1999, "Begin to say no to the Greek chorus that thinks it knows the parameters of a happy life when all it knows is the homogenization of human experience. Listen to that small voice from inside you, that tells you to go another way. George Eliot wrote, 'It is never too late to be what you might have been.' It is never too early, either. And it will make all the difference in the world."

Studying fiction at Barnard with the literary critic Elizabeth Hardwick, Quindlen's senior thesis was a collection of stories, one of which she sold to Seventeen magazine.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 8, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.A., Barnard College, 1974
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 24, 2014

    A brilliant book but I would say that wouldn't I as a Brit - but

    A brilliant book but I would say that wouldn't I as a Brit - but living in New York! I love her sense of irony - something not many Americans understand plus her honesty with the language differences. Yes there are a lot of references to well written English literature so if you are a Philistine don't bother on the other hand if you have a passion for reading plus an interest in London then this is definitely the book for you. I couldn't put it down and intend re-reading it very soon!

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    Well intentioned but a bit tedious.

    I really wanted to like this book, but it becomes too much a reference to great authors of fiction. Not an easy read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2007

    An excellent trip through London

    If you love London (either from personal visits or through history and literature), don't miss this book. I disagree completely with the previous reviewer---this book is well worth your time and attention. It is indeed an essay of sorts (and definitely not a novel). The whole point of the book is to visit the London with reference to books the author has read....I did not find it boring at all. On the contrary, I was up very late finishing the book! I have read some, but not all, of the books referenced by the author: it's not necessary to know each individual literary reference to enjoy this book. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in London, or to anyone who enjoys Anna Quindlen's writing style.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2006

    Dull and Disappointing

    I would not recommend this book. It's more of a really long essay than a novel. The author writes in such a way that if you haven't read every book she's describing (and trust me, there are a LOT), you cannot understand nor enjoy the book. A few of the authors frequently mentioned are Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle and Virginia Woolf. Not your favorites? Don't read this book! I have read some of the books described in this novel, and I STILL nearly slept through it. Definately not worth your time.

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    Posted July 30, 2010

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