Anna Quindlen first visited London from a chair in her suburban Philadelphia home. "'The city streets were filled with fog and the cobbled pavers were slightly slick with moisture, so that the man and woman struggling down the street slid on its surface. It was just after the war, and some of the buildings were empty holes left over from the blitz.' The book describing this was by Patricia Wentworth, one of a series of mystery novels she wrote that wind up always, inevitably, in the capital, at the cosy flat of the essential English spinster." Quindlen has been to London countless times since, in the pages of books. From Dickensian London, rich with narrow alleyways and jocular street vendors, to the London of Conan Doyle and Margery Allingham, with its salt-of-the-earth police officers and crowded train stations. She visited Victoria Station, Hyde Park, Soho, and Kensington in her imagination long before ever setting foot in the city. By the time Quindlen actually visited London in 1995; it was less like an introduction and more like a homecoming. Here, she thought, is where Evelyn Waugh's bright young things danced until dawn.
Here is where foolish Lydia Bennett eloped with the dastardly Wickham. Here is where Oliver Twist sought his fortune, and where Adam Dalgliesh has his private flat. New York, Paris, and Dublin are vividly portrayed in fiction, but London has always been the star, both because of the primacy of English literature and the specificity of the city's descriptions. In Imagined London, Quindlen walks through the city, moving within blocks from the great books of the 18th century to the detective stories of the 20th to the new modernist tradition of the 21st Her book is about travelling and reading in a city in fact and a city in fiction and where and how the two cities intersect.
Anna Quindlen is the author of three best-selling novels, Object Lessons, One True Thing, and Black and Blue. Her latest novel, Blessings, came out in 2002. Her New York Times column "Public and Private" won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992; a selection of those columns was published in the book Thinking Out Loud. She is also author of a collection of her "Life in the 30's" columns, Living Out Loud; a book for the Library of Contemporary Thought, How Reading Changed My Life; and two children's books, The Tree That Came to Stay and Happily Ever After. She is currently a columnist for Newsweek and resides with her husband and children in New York City.