Books always have a unique way to describe a city. Somehow words on a paper know exactly how to bring a place to life. Sometimes a person who has never visited a city knows so much about it by just reading a book. There have been some novels which have gone one step ahead: they blended the spirit and character of the city with their story till they couldn’t be told apart.
Here is a list of such books :
Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me
Insomniac City by Bill Hayes is a 2017 memoir. The book recounts his life in New York City and his romantic relationship with neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks over the last seven years of Sacks’ life. The book is seeped in longing, loneliness, and isolation. Told through prose and snapshots, Insomniac City looks at how New York appears at night, replete with dimly-lit windows, grieving partners, and love.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is a work of domestic fiction. The book has Kolkata in the background and foreground. The principal characters, Ashok and Ashima, carry the city around in their little pockets even when they settle down in New York and it is the city that breaks and mends their ties. The Namesake has also been made into a movie by Mira Nair starring Irfaan Khan and Tabu.
The City of Joy
The city of Joy is a 1985 novel by Dominique Lapierre. It was adapted as a film by Roland Joffé in 1992. The book describes two cities, Kolkata and New York, that are miles apart. Lapierre traces the life of a young Polish priest, Father Stephan Kovalski, and merges it with other lives: a rickshaw puller called Hasari Pal in Kolkata and a young American doctor, Max Loeb. The book does not encompass the life of the city as much as it imbibes its never-dying spirit
Mrs. Dalloway is a novel by Virginia Woolf that details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional high-society woman in post–First World War England. London finds shape in unexpected ways in this book. For both Clarissa Dalloway and war veteran Septimus Warren Smith, the city means different things, but probe deeper and the disparate images in their mind seem similar.
Normal People is a 2018 novel by Irish author Sally Rooney. A modern-day classic romance between a popular jock and a friendless girl in school spans across years. When the book is not tugging at your heartstrings, it reminds you of the people you have left behind. It also provides a picture of Dublin, its culture, and parties clanging with broken hearts.