Rooms of One's Own: 50 Places That Made Literary History by Adrian Mourby
|Rooms of One's Own: 50 Places That Made Literary History by Adrian Mourby|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A fine selection of quick essays concerning where great writers wrote.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: June 2017|
|Publisher: Icon Books Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
The debate is never-ending about how much of the author's life we can find in their pages, and what bearing every circumstance of their lot had on their output. Things perhaps are heightened when they do a Hemingway or a Greene and travel the world, but so often they have had a cause to stay in one place and write. Does that creative spirit survive in the walls and air of the room they worked in, and do those four walls, or the view, feature in the books? And does any of this really matter in admiring the great works of literature? Well, this volume itself kind of relies on that as being the case, but either way it's a real pleasure.
This fits so many brackets. Books about books? Tick. Travel? Yup. A collection of mini-biographies? Present and correct. It certainly was right up my street, and found itself a place in my room of my own.
Every entry in the 50 selected seemed to justify its place, whether or not I'd read the author concerned (hello, entry number one, George Sand). They all come presented in four-page essays, with a full-page photo, and we learn just what I felt we needed to learn – namely what was going on in these buildings once upon a time, and what it feels like to visit them now. And it does have a bearing, despite the doubt I tried to raise in my introduction – it's one thing to walk along the foot of Rome's Spanish Steps, and another to actually visit the place Keats died, right next to them. I've felt this myself – I'm no real fan of Dickens, but when you handle a quill the man himself whittled and used, there's some miniscule spark you feel crossing the decades. Why else did I carefully photograph the birth house of Brecht when I saw it (clue – it's not in Berlin)? It's partly the 'sod-the-canon-go-for-the-trivia' mindset I adhere to, but there's no mistaking the canonical here – the London chambers Samuel Johnson rented, debts be damned, to write his dictionary, Beatrix Potter's various houses, that Room with a Florentine View.
This is a book to keep securely on your shelf, until the chance re-encounter with it perhaps inspires a travel of your own. When/if I ever hit Portmeirion I will do so knowing Blithe Spirit was written there by a very industrious-sounding Noel Coward. But the book takes you places you like as not will never find yourself – Venetian palazzi, the Savoy, and many more exotic realms. The format of small essays is a mastery of concision, and you really can pick up a lot through just a few well-chosen words, as our author lucks into select rooms, or just pays the National Trust dues and ambles along on the industrial-scale tourism beloved writers can inspire. What we have here is a volume that really nails what it wants to set out and do – to such an extent it begs the obvious question, where was it written?
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
If you're also interested in where the reading of these books takes place these days, then you will love Reading Allowed: True Stories and Curious Incidents from a Provincial Library by Chris Paling. If not, just abide a few months for a sequel to the Mourby, which we eagerly await.
You can read more book reviews or buy Rooms of One's Own: 50 Places That Made Literary History by Adrian Mourby at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Rooms of One's Own: 50 Places That Made Literary History by Adrian Mourby at Amazon.com.
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