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.
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
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.
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.