The Literary Guide to London

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9780140279047: The Literary Guide to London

From the Globe at Bankside to the Wimpole Street home of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, London is , and always has been, crammed with literary life. Playwrights, novelists, diarists, poets and essayists throughout the centuries have roamed its streets, met in its cafes and restaurants and strolled in its parks and gardens. They have been inspired by its monuments, churches, law courts and theatres and have created fictional Londoners as diverse as Mr Pickwick, Sherlock Holmes, Bertie Wooster, Mrs Dalloway and Winston Smith, whose fortunes are played out against a London backdrop. In this guide, the author gives a detailed survey of London, by area and by postcode, taking us street by street (and map by map) through all of the literary history that waits there. His is a book crammed full of fascinating facts (for example that Keats's Grecian urn was made in Staffordshire), of gossip, (who sent love notes to whom in the British Library) and of snippets concerning famous residents and workers (such as P.G. Wodehouse's disastrous time at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank). It lists local bookshops and their specialities and provides addresses that have appeared in novels by authors as disparate as Charles Dickens and Charles Dickens. There are also six themed walks to take around London including the Shakespeare walk and the Sherlock Holmes walk.

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Review:

A Literary Guide to London is a terrific book: good fun as well as erudite and informative. As well as addresses, directions (and, where relevant, opening times and admission details to sites and museums), there is a wealth of information on London's bookshops and a degree of detail that will be appeal to the committed enthusiast as much as to the more casual reader. It bears both lengthy study and dipping into for facts on favourite authors and areas (the two indexes are arranged to help search in both categories).

The scope of the book is enormous. Authors from Chaucer to Nick Hornby are present (the last begrudgingly granted "perhaps one entry too many"--yes, that means one), but as one might expect there is more emphasis on the acknowledged "greats" than on the modern popular writers. Consequently, don't expect the address of Bridget Jones favoured Cafe Rouge--but if you want to add another level to your knowledge of Eliot's The Waste Land or where Sherlock Holmes conducted his investigations, this is the book for you.

Under-achieving sites are dismissed with one withering comment that resonates far more deeply than a more extensive comment might. Bloomsbury's Hotel Russell "has a Virginia Woolf Burger Bar and Grill" we are told--need we read more? It is these haughty touches that make this as enjoyable a read in its own right as it is an interesting and informative guide. --Richard Kelly

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Glinert, Ed
Published by Penguin UK (2000)
ISBN 10: 0140279040 ISBN 13: 9780140279047
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Published by Penguin UK 2000-05-02 (2000)
ISBN 10: 0140279040 ISBN 13: 9780140279047
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