Literature and London Part 3: Odds and Ends and a Bit of Shakespeare

Alright, again, a lot of my LaL pictures don’t take place in London. But bear with me, because I do like the alliteration in the blog title!

All the same, I hadn’t planned a vacation around books for the most part, but I can’t help being transported to locations in fiction when I visited England. Some of the locations in London itself helped remind me how celebrated authors were. Some locations triggered a memory of a book or a detailed description of a setting in a rather enjoyable book. And some locations pretty much screamed scenes from literature I’d enjoyed in the past.

Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

When he had first arrived, he had found London huge, odd, fundamentally incomprehensible, with only the Tube map, that elegant multicolored topographical display of underground railway lines and stations, giving it any semblance of order. Gradually he realized that the Tube map was a handy fiction that made life easier but bore no resemblance to the reality of the shape of the city above. It was like belonging to a political party, he thought once, proudly, and then, having tried to explain the resemblance between the Tube map and politics, at a party, to a cluster of bewildered strangers, he had decided in the future to leave political comment to others. – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Honestly, I was pretty much experiencing the same thing Richard Mayhew experienced the first time he came to London and went to examine the Underground map. The London Tube didn’t take too long to navigate, and I must have gotten off the wrong stop maybe once on my seven days of having taken it on a daily basis. I could understand why it gets a bit confusing (nothing beats the simplicity of Rome’s underground lines), but I’ve had a bit of practice with city train stations.

All the same, every single time I entered the Tube, I had Neverwhere in the brain, heh.

They arrived in Bath. Catherine was all eager delight; her eyes were here, there, and everywhere. – Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

There is a major Jane Austen presence in Bath, and the irony of it is, the writer herself was well-known for her dislike of Bath. It was a place best left to the elderly and the sick and the long host of husband-hunters. It was not a place Jane had wanted to move to and live in for a few years. And yet she did, and at least two of her books were set in Bath, while a number of others mention Bath occasionally.

I went to Bath for only a short period of time, and honestly, the time I spent there was not enough. It was a beautiful place, and I could have spent more than a day just exploring the area and walking the places that Jane frequented. Unfortunately, since it was a short stop on my tour (which included three other places), I had a measly hour to…well…soak in the sights.

There had been three alternatives, London, Bath, or another house in the country. All Anne’s wishes had been for the latter… She disliked Bath, and did not think it agreed with her – and Bath was to be her home… – Persuasion by Jane Austen

And then of course I saw the Jane Austen Centre and was absolutely devastated that I couldn’t spend the day at the museum and the tea room! I settled with grabbing a few souvenirs, however, so my visit wasn’t completely in vain. On my next sojourn to London, I definitely plan to go back to Bath and stay there for a couple of days at least.

I could feel the hair rising on my forearms, as though with cold, and rubbed them uneasily. Two hundred years. From 1945 to 1743; yes, near enough. And women who traveled through the rocks. Was it always women? I wondered suddenly. – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Let’s be clear, Stonehenge isn’t Craigh na Dun. It’s nowhere near Craigh na Dun, which is located near Inverness, which is in Scotland. England is not Scotland. HOWEVER, as far as stone circles go, Stonehenge is one of the preserved landmarks littering the British and Irish isles. And unless I traveled to Scotland (which I will…eventually), this was as close as I was going to get to pulling a Claire and traveling to the 1740s.

Not that I’d want to be in England during the 1740s. Unless I was in Bath, lol!

I prayed all the way up that hill yesterday,” he said softly. “Not for you to stay; I didna think that would be right. I prayed I’d be strong enough to send ye away. – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

DON’T JUDGE ME. Of course I’d have to do my Outlander pose. The standing stones were calling to me, and I was so dressed for the part! Almost tempted to Photoshop Jamie Mackenzie Fraser onto this picture…

And okay, this one was actually in London. So I’m justified in posting Outlander things. Mostly things about the wonderful James Fraser. I’d go into his house, too.

Cobbled streets and no shops open past six o’clock, a communal life that seemed to revolve around church, and where you could often hear bird song and nothing else: Gaia felt as though she had fallen through a portal into a land lost in time. – The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I haven’t actually read The Casual Vacancy, but I walked into Lacock imagining it was the type of English village that Rowling had been describing in the book. It certainly has that feel of falling into a different time period. The village itself was very quiet when I visited. It was almost six o’clock, shops were closed except for the local pub, the place smelled of petrichor (because, yes, it did just rain), and besides my tour, no other visitor was around. On top of that, small booths with tills were assembled just outside of the stone houses, selling mint and meringue and other lovely things, and all we had to do was drop the money into the till!

And on a J.K. Rowling note: Can I just make note that I found Professor Slughorn’s house? Apparently Lacock was one of those little Harry Potter locations that Warner Bros. filmed at. Friggin’ awesome, that.

The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances. – Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Anyway, back to London. Ran into monument to Agatha Christie and I pretty much smiled at the thought that this woman is still going to be celebrated decades from now. If there’s any expert on mystery stories, it’s definitely her.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. – As You Like It by William Shakespeare

The Globe Theatre! Though as I understand it, this was not the original one. With the amount of times the original Globe burned down or was destroyed, this Globe Theatre is a copy of where Shakespeare put on his plays. That said, I had visited the original location as well, though there isn’t much to take a picture of, the original Globe area is now just a plain ole’ lot with a sign about the Globe Theatre on it.

As for the present Globe, it certainly stuck out amidst all the modern buildings surrounding it. I would have loved to have watched a play while I was in London, but didn’t think that far ahead to book myself a ticket. A shame, but something I am looking to remedy next time I head over there.

The play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king. – Hamlet by William Shakespeare

And that was just a pretty damn cool mural of the Bard.

Welp. I think that pretty much sums up my travels through fiction! Now…if I could only budget in order to go traveling again next year…

For previous posts of Literature and London, check these links:
Literature and London Part 1: A Darker Shade of London Magic
Literature and London Part 2: Hogwarts and Harry Potter


Literary Crimes Afoot || The Eyre Affair Review


Initial Thoughts: 

This book was so much fun! The world isn’t perfect and definitely chaotic in a sense, but literature is on a hey day here. I must have laughed way too many times over the shenanigans happening when Thursday and the other characters got thrown into the novels mentioned in the book.


by Jasper Fforde
Penguin Books, 2003
Fantasy, speculative, mystery
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies

eyreaffairWelcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

A country full of literary marvels

I will admit that I’ve put this on the back-burner solely because the title and the book jacket summary mentioned a heavy involvement with Jane Eyre. Now, I’ve liked my fair share of classic literature and respect the Brontes greatly for their contributions, but the Bronte books were not my particular cup of tea. Which is funny that I write this now, because at the moment, I’ve immersed myself in two Jane Eyre-inspired books, and am enjoying them immensely.

In the case of Fforde’s The Eyre Affair, my enjoyment did not come only from the fact that the story of Jane Eyre gets a fresh coating, but that it also encompasses an alternate historical England where literature has become a pop culture phenomenon. That’s something any bibliophile would love to be a part of, though I suppose escapism is rather important in Thursday’s world–there’s still so much war going on that it becomes understandable why people want to step out of reality and walk right into fiction.

But enough about that, some of the things I did adore about The Eyre Affair.

The Will-Speak machine–officially known as a Shakespeare Soliloquy Vending Automaton–was of Richard III. It was a simple box, with the top half glazed and inside a realistic mannequin visible from the waist up in suitable attire. The machine would dispense a short snippet of Shakespeare for ten pence. They hadn’t been manufactured since the thirties and were now something of a rarity; Baconic vandalism and a lack of trained maintenance were together hastening their demise.

There is a Shakespeare quoting machine. Yes, yes, there are airships. Yes, yes, there are law departments specializing in werewolves, vampires, time travel, and literary forgeries. But come on. There’s a Will-Speak machine. Full of Shakespearisms. And it’s only tenpence a snippet. In 1985. How is this not a thing anywhere else?!

“I call it a Retinal Screen-Saver. Very useful for boring jobs; instead of gazing absently out of the window you can transform your surroundings to any number of soothing images. As soon as the phone goes or your boss walks in you  blink and bingo!–you’re back in the real world again.”

Then there’s Mycroft Next and the rest of the Next family. I love all of them. I want to know more about Thursday’s rebellious ChronoGuard dad, though if there’s anyone I enjoyed reading about that wasn’t immediately Thursday herself was definitely Mycroft. He’s the bee’s knees, as it were. I’d love to be able to play with all of his inventions–provided I don’t get meringued like his last assistant. Or get trapped in a Prose Portal while traipsing Gothic fiction. That Prose Portal is amazing, though, not gonna lie.

“Comrades, we stand on the very brink of an act of artistic barbarism so monstrous that I am almost ashamed of it myself. All of you have been my faithful servants for many years, and although none of you possesses a soul quite as squalid as mine, and the faces I see before me are both stupid and unappealing, I regard you all with no small measure of fondness.”

The diabolical villainy that is Acheron Hades. Now here’s a villain whose motive is purely “for shits and giggles.” I loved reading about his antics, even as reprehensible as his actions are, because he’s so effing happy about all the debauched criminal activities he’s taking part in. The book doesn’t just focus on Hades’ villainy, mind, considering there are also other characters who are just as villainous as he is (I mean, Jack Schitt is pretty appropriate name-wise for a reason…). But Acheron. Acheron has a special place in Hades for the things he’s done.

“Sadly, none of the Bard’s original manuscripts survive.” He thought for a moment. “Perhaps the Bennett family could do with some thinning…”

“Pride and Prejudice!?” yelled Mycroft. “You heartless monster!”

Do you see that? Special place in Hades. How dare he think of destroying the sanctity of an Austen novel!

Rochester pulled a second pistol after the first and cocked it.

“Let her go,” he announced, his jaw set, his dark hair falling into his eyes.

Edward Rochester gets a bit more color in his character. I always saw him as boring and unappealing in the book (something that drove me nuts, considering I read Jane Eyre at least three times when I was in school). But given a slight taste of the modern world, Rochester seems to acclimate well. Also, I rather like that he’s prepared to fight for the love of his life. It’s a much better version of this Byronic character than what I always found lacking in the original text.

4.5 out of 5 cookies! I will have to get the rest of the series, because I do want more of the Next family.


Did you read this book? What did you think?