Imagined London by Anna Quindlen

9780792265610Anna 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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The New Countess by Fay Weldon

9781250028037_p0_v2_s260x420Fay Weldon completes her trilogy of British upstairs/downstairs society in The New Countess.  All the familiar characters are back, but if you’ve forgotten their assorted scandals and peccadilloes, as I had, Weldon fills in the back story.  The new countess does not emerge until the last chapter, when an accidental shooting at a hunting party conveniently wraps up the lives and stories of the three-book saga.

Maybe my expectations were too high but this final book was not as gripping or as fun as the first two.  Although I enjoyed the machinations of the various lords and ladies and the downstairs staff interventions and gossip, the story seemed stale.

In a recent interview with Carole Burns, Weldon proclaims the novel as dead:

“…the novel has become just entertainment.  Fifty or 60 years ago, the novel was the only way you had of finding out what was in other people’s heads.  You didn’t know anything other than what you read in fiction about how lives were for other people.  But now we have film and television, and the novel as a source of understanding and information is no longer really necessary.”

Maybe that’s the reason –  television – Downton Abbey is being broadcast where I live now, but I read the first two novels in that slough of downtime, awaiting the return of the Dowager Duchess played by  Maggie Smith.  Maybe watching has become more entertaining.

Review of First Two Books in the Trilogy

Enhanced by Zemanta