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Literary destination: London, England

My favorite thrift shop has a large book section I love to browse because I never know what marvels I might stumble across there.  On one recent visit, I found this book by Anna Quindlen, Imagined London: A Tour of the World’s Greatest Fictional City (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2004, ISBN 9780792265610.)  I love reading.  I love London.  I love reading books set in London.  Brilliant find!  Some of the authors that inspired Quindlen’s London adventures discussed in this book are, Virginia Woolf, Margery Allingham, Nancy Mitford, John Mortimer, and of course, Charles Dickens.  If you’d like to find out more about Anna Guindlen and her books, please click here:  Anna Quindlen

We took a family trip to London in 2012 and one of the spots we visited in common with Quindlen was Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey.  Over 100 English authors/poets are buried or honored here, including Robert Browning, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, and William Shakespeare.  The first poet buried in Westminster Abbey was Geoffrey Chaucer in 1400!  When you visit here, you’ll notice the vaulted ceiling soaring above you, and you’ll be surrounded by beautiful archways, stained glass windows, and statues.  What an amazing way to pay tribute to your national treasures of literature.  Out of all the photos we took while we were there, I can’t find any from Poet’s Corner! If you’d like more information, and to see official photos of Poet’s Corner, please click here:  Poets’ Corner | Westminster Abbey (westminster-abbey.org).

While we were in London, I was hoping to see the “home” of Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street, an address that did not actually exist when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Holmes stories.  Now, that address belongs to the Sherlock Holmes Museum.  We were unable to make it there due to several road closures, so I guess I’ll have to plan another trip someday. Would you like to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum on your next trip to London?  Make sure to click here for more information:  Sherlock Holmes Museum – The official home of Sherlock Holmes (sherlock-holmes.co.uk).  Want to know more about the man behind it all?  You can find information about Doyle here:  Arthur Conan Doyle – Licensing – Official Website of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Family Estate (conandoyleestate.com)

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My copy of the complete Holmes stories

If you’re planning on going to Baker Street when you visit London, and you’ll be traveling with children, you may want to visit Paddington Station while you’re in the general area.  Why?  Do you remember Paddington Bear?  In the 1950s, Michael Bond bought a stuffed bear for his wife, which they named Paddington since they lived near Paddington Station.  Bond began to write stories about this bear, and in 1958 A Bear Called Paddington was published.  A statue of the bear was commissioned by Bond and was unveiled in its new home in Paddington Station in February 2000.  If you’d like to find out more about Bond and his famous bear, click here:  Paddington

The first Paddington Bear book

If you’re continuing on your adventure with your children (or even without), south of Paddington Station is Kensington Garden.  While you’re strolling in the park and taking in the lovely views, you may come across the statue of Peter Pan, made famous by author JM Barrie.  Peter first made his appearance in the 1902 adult novel, The Little White Bird or Adventures in Kensington Garden.  Peter then made his way to Neverland in the 1904 play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.  The statue has had its home in the Garden since 1912.  If you’d like more information on Kensington Garden, please click here: The Peter Pan Statue – Kensington Gardens – The Royal Parks.  For more information on JM Barrie, you can click here: The Largest Archive & Database of Scottish writerJ M Barrie

Photo credit: Royalparks.org.uk

There is another stop I should mention.  Book lovers young and old would enjoy a visit to the British Library.  Not only does this magnificent structure maintain holdings of global historic and cultural significance, but it also contains a library of over 300,000 volumes.  That’s a lot of books!!  What’s even better?  You don’t have to wait until the end of the pandemic to visit – you can visit virtually!  Please click here for more information:  How to explore the British Museum from home – The British Museum Blog. And while you’re in the area, continue on to the British Library. You’ll find originals of the Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in their holdings. To find out more about the British Library’s online exhibits and more, please click here: Online exhibitions – The British Library (bl.uk)

I hope you’ll find some points of interest here and will begin planning your own literary journey to London.

(Photo credit for picture of map in title box : London AZ Street Atlas)

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Baldwin’s Book Barn

Have you ever read a book that described what you thought sounded like a really cool place, only to discover that this place actually exists? It happened to me several years ago while reading Sheila Connolly’s Let’s Play Dead, which is one of seven books in her Museum Mystery series.Lets_Play_Dead

I love to read books, fiction or nonfiction, with settings in museums, libraries, or bookstores (not surprising!). In the Museum Mystery series, Nell Pratt is the president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society, a fictional organization based in Philadelphia. In Let’s Play Dead, Nell is invited to a nearby children’s museum for a preview of a new exhibit. A murder at the museum causes Nell to search for the killer. While taking a break from her busy schedule, Nell takes a drive to Chester County to visit a bookstore she calls the Book Barn. As I was reading Connolly’s description of the Barn and its locale, I began to wonder if this place was real. I did a little research and happily discovered that, indeed, Baldwin’s Book Barn in West Chester, Pennsylvania is an actual place!

Baldwins_BooksThe barn that houses the bookstore started its life as a dairy barn in 1822. In 1946, the original founders of Baldwin’s, William and Lilla Baldwin, moved their business into the barn. Today, Baldwin’s has four floors of treasures! This bookstore is so large that they provide visitors with a map to help you navigate each level, with categories clearly labeled. Items are not cataloged at Baldwin’s, so if you’re looking for something in particular, you will need to search the shelves for it.

Baldwins_Books

Baldwins_BooksAs we made our visit in the winter on a very overcast and damp day, it was wonderful to be greeted by the warmth of the wood stove in the Rare Books room (this is where the main entrance is located). You’ll notice the obligatory scent of old books (a delight to many book lovers); and the creaking floorboards add to the ambiance of the rustic barn setting.

If you’d like to know more about Baldwin’s history or plan a visit, check out their website at http://www.bookbarn.com. We found our treasures – hope you will find yours!

Let’s Play Dead is published by Berkley Prime Crime (July 2011), ISBN 978-0-425-24220-9. For more information on this book and more, go to http://sheilaconnolly.com.

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Intrigue at the Hotel Ritz Paris

Many of you have heard of the Hotel Ritz in Paris.  This world-famous hotel is known for luxury and glamour; but, did you know it is also known as a place of secret rendezvous and intrigue?  The Paris Ritz has been used as a backdrop in several recent books.All_the_Ways_We_Say_Goodbye

The newest of these books is All the Ways We Said Goodbye: A Novel of the Ritz Paris and comes from my favorite writing team, or “Team W” as they refer to themselves, of Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White.  This dynamic trio has released two previous historical novels, The Forgotten Room and The Glass Ocean, as well as numerous novels they have published as solo authors.  I am a huge fan of these three
talented writers, as a trio and individually.

All the Ways is three interconnected stories that take place with the Ritz as its backdrop, during World War I, World War II, and the 1960s.  The protagonists of this tale are Aurelie de Courcelles, Daisy Villon, and Barbara Langford.  All the characters are so well developed, and the storyline so seamlessly crafted, that you never feel as though you’re reading a disjointed novel.  I loved Loved LOVED this book and purchased a hardcover copy upon its release last month.

All the Ways We Said Goodbye is published by William Morrow (January 2020), ISBN 978-0-06-293109-2

Mistress_of_the_RitzAnother outstanding and recent historical novel sharing the Ritz setting is Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin.  This novel was highlighted in BookBub’s “The 25 Most Wanted Books of the Summer” in 2019.  Based on the real-life of Blanche Auzello and her husband Claude, the manager of the Ritz during World War II, this is the story of their life, their love, and their fight to end the Nazi occupation of Paris.  Blanche led a double life for many years.  To some, she seemed nothing but a bored socialite.  What few people knew, including her husband, was that Blanche was a valued member of the French resistance.

Mistress of the Ritz is published by Delacorte Press (May 2019), ISBN  978-0-39-918224-2

If reading nonfiction is more to your liking,The_Hotel_on_Place_Vendome and you’d like more information on the Ritz during this time period, be sure to read The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar J. Mazzeo.  There is no shortage of information on political and military figures, movie stars, literary giants, artists, etc., and their varied activities at the Ritz.  Ms. Mazzeo presents a helpful Cast of Characters at the beginning of the book, which provides a very useful thumbnail sketch of these individuals.

The Hotel on Place Vendome is published by HarperCollins (March 2014), ISBN 978-0-06-179108-6