How many times do you read a novel and then pull out an atlas? I do it quite often. I love to be able to visualize the geography of the story I am reading. This is particularly true with novels that take place in London. I keep a London A to Z close at hand so I can look up particular parts of London as they appear in the books I read.
The novels of Anita Brookner provide abundant opportunity to explore London. I think all of her 24 novels take place at least in part in London. And her characters spend a lot of time walking around. I have always had it in my mind that I wanted to document Brookner’s London. Now that I am starting to re-read all of her novels in chronological order, I realize I have the perfect opportunity to construct a sort of Gazetteer of London place names in Brookner’s fiction. I am also tempted to chart the places out of London, or out of the country (mainly France and Switzerland) that Brookner’s characters visit. But her books are so London-centric, that I think the spirit of her characters live in London regardless of their temporary forays outside the metropolitan area.
For instance in The Debut/A Start in Life, the main character Ruth details one of her walks:
From Edith Grove (where she lives)
down to the river [presumeably following Cheyne Walk and the Chelsea Embankment] to Chelsea Old Church
to Victoria Station
turning back to Sloane Square
then following the King’s Road to Fulham Road where she catches a bus back to her flat on Edith Grove.
It isn’t clear where she connects with Fulham Road from the King’s Road but using Google maps, this “walk” is about five miles. I know many other Brookner characters take similar walks. I am looking forward to see where their perigrinations take them.
For a full list of the London places that appear in The Debut (and eventually all of Brookner’s novels) check out this link.