Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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*****= An all-time favorite
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****Imagined London

A Tour of the World's Greatest Fictional City

by Anna Quindlen

Reviewed December 20, 2004.
National Geographic Directions, Washington, D. C., 2004.  162 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #13, Personal Stories and Reflections

I felt that Anna Quindlen is a kindred spirit as soon as I read the words: “This is the story of a woman and the city she loved before she’d ever been there.”

I’ve only spent one day in London, but I have spent a week in England, three weeks in Ireland, and one week in Scotland.  Like Anna Quindlen, “Before I was a novelist. . . or even an adult, I felt about London the way most children my age felt about pen pals.  I knew it well, but only at a distance, and only through words.  Since the age of five I had been one of those people who was an indefatigable reader, more inclined to go off by myself with a book than do any of the dozens of things that children usually do to amuse themselves.  I never aged out of it.”

When I did go to England, there was an amazing sense of familiarity, like seeing an old friend.  I knew this familiarity came through books.  Anna Quindlen tells the same story about her relationship with the city of London.

She says, “Perhaps it was that I wanted to see what I had learned, what I had read, what I had imagined, that I would never be able to see the city of London without seeing it through the overarching scrim of every description of it I had read before.  When I turn the corner into a small, quiet, leafy square, am I really seeing it fresh, or am I both looking and remembering?”

She takes us on a tour of the streets of London, showing us not only what remains for the present-day, but the ghosts of literary figures still roaming its streets, still completely at home.

I have to admit that I haven’t read a lot of the classics that Anna Quindlen has read.  My own literary tour of London would be quite different.  However, she makes me long to visit London again (now that my kids are old enough that I won’t have nightmares about losing them in the crowds on the subway), roaming the streets with her book in hand, finding these places of familiarity, these old friends.

“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 its great home.”
Reviews of other books by Anna Quindlen:
Loud and Clear
Being Perfect
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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