9 March 2017

Imagined London by Anna Quindlen

Planning my trip across the pond this summer has pulled my attention towards lots of travel books.  I've also signed out Hermione Lee's biography on Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens' wonderful collection of stories and observations in Sketches by Boz.  For anyone interested in reading something by Dickens without his extreme ability to pad out a sentence, this is an excellent starting point.  And another book that has crossed my path before, but I had forgotten about, is Anna Quindlen's Imagined London.

Published in 2004, Imagined London is a non-fiction piece about Anna's discovery of London, first through the stories she read as a child, then in her forties when she visited the city for the first time.  Her experience felt so familiar to mine that it made me laugh.  Both of us stood in amazement at the tomb of Elizabeth I during our first trip to Westminster Abbey.  It's all the wonder of documentaries, stories, and film, and most importantly the woman herself, right there before you.

Anna's book is only 160 pages long but each page will delight the anglophile or anyone planning a trip across the pond.  In the last few paragraphs, Anna perfectly puts into words my fascination with London....

   'For that you must come down to Earth and wander aimlessly.  Maybe just off Sloane Square, or in Cheval Place, or on Burnsall Street, or Elgin Crescent.  Maybe Notting Hill or South Kensington or Bloomsbury.  Finally you will reach it: a house with a handsome gate or a small garden.   Around it, a street or two away, swirls the clamor of one of the busiest cities on Earth.  Inside is - what?  Did a debutante once wait there for her car?  Did a maid slip out to meet her lover?  Did street peddlers sell ribbons here, or fruit and flowers?  Does it stand on the ruins of an older house, or a cow pasture, or even a Roman fort?  Did the bombs shake its foundation and the modern real estate boom triple its value?  Behind every door in London there are stories, behind every one ghosts.  The greatest writers in the history of the written word have given them substance, given them life.   And so we readers walk, and dream, and imagine, in the city where imagination found it's great home.'

10 comments:

  1. Since I can only imagine visiting London again for the time being, I think this would be a wonderful way to do it. Of course, we will also be counting on you to drive us to distraction with photos, books bought, etc. etc. :)

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    1. Despite promising myself not to overdo the itinerary, there will probably be another epic travel report once I'm back. I'm staying across the road from a Waterstones...talk about throwing caution to the wind!

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  2. This book sounds as if you could have written it, Darlene!

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    1. Just about! Come to think of it, my travel diaries are just sitting on a shelf when they could be put to good use. Do you think the mad dashings of a Canadian around London would sell? I might need you to sign a waiver, Mary!

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  3. Yes waiting for the photos and tidbits to follow. I visited London twice, still wanting to go again.

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    1. I'm picturing you with a long list of books to shop for, Mystica. Hopefully you will be back in London one day soon.

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  4. I absolutely love that quote. It is exactly how I feel!

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    1. That doesn't surprise me, Sunday. Glad you enjoyed it!

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  5. I was born in London (I live in north-east England now) and never get tired of visiting my two daughters who are lucky enough to live there. I really enjoyed my last visit to the flag-ship Waterstone's in Piccadilly, six floors and two coffee shops. They were having a promotion of all 100 PG Wodehouse books, an absolute delight.

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    1. Hello, Hils, and thanks for stopping by! You're so lucky to be able to just pop over to London without dealing with air travel...I'm envious. Waterstones and Hatchards are two of my favourite stops on Piccadilly and needless to say, I always leave carrying a bag. The Wodehouse promotion sounds like it would have been a real treat for fans. Glad you enjoyed it!

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