Anna Quindlen’s Imagined London – “A Tour of the World’s Greatest Fictional City – will vicariously lead you through familiar landmarks, and maybe introduce you to a few new sites from the pages of well-known authors. Waiting patiently for Quindlen’s latest book from my library wait list (Still Life with Bread Crumbs), I found this nonfiction guide to London – actually Quindlen’s long essay on her own introduction to the city.
Of course, Quindlen dedicates a chapter to the narrow alleys of Dickens’ novels, as well as the author’s house; John Galsworthy also merits a chapter – motivating me to find The Forsythe Saga. Other famous authors appear – Agatha Christie, Virginia Woolf, Doris Lessing, mystery writer Martha Grimes. Quindlen has repetitive references to some of her favorite books: Anthony Trollope’s The Prime Minister as well as Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love (another book I plan to find).
Although she never mentioned books from two of my favorite authors – Jane Gardam and Fay Weldon – she did reference one I had not thought about in a long time – Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber. Like Quindlen, I remember reading this banned book under a brown cover (we both went to Catholic school) that probably would not be as shocking today as it was then. I will have to find an old copy to reread and decide.
With references to British history – kings, great fire, wars – and a chapter on the inconsistency of language and idiosyncratic phrasing, Quindlen’s book has her easy conversational style, and is an enjoyable foray into travel writing. If you are a writer or a lover of British authors, as I am, you may find a special affinity in its pages. I plan to reread it before I visit London again.