“The City of the Mind” By: Penelope Lively

“The City Of the Mind” By: Penelope Lively


The novel “The City of the Mind” By: Penelope Lively shows several different ways of “Mapping Englishness”. This novel provides a tragic historic reference to the Blitz. On page 119 it describes the Blitz, “The whole sky is a brilliant orange, with the plump shapes of balloons floating against it as clear as by day, and incandescent columns of smoke boiling upwards, grey-black touched with red. The scarlet blizzards of sparks, the drifting clouds of red embers; the silver arcs of water jets against the banks of smoke. The shrill descending whistle of high explosive bombs, and then the dull prolonged boom, shuddering away into silence.” That is a very descriptive passage on what they Blitz experience was like for Matthew. This reference in the story to the Blitz is a very important part of Englishness. It describes the tragedies that thousands went through in London.

Information on the Blitz. According to an online article, the Blitz caused “60,000 people to lose their lives, 87,000 people seriously injured, and 2 million peoples homes were destroyed.” “ In July 1940, The German air force began making daily bombing raids on British ships, ports, radar stations, airfields, and aircraft factories.”


On page 85 on the novel, Matthew and Jane visit the “Royal Museums Greenwich” National Maritime, Planetarium. Some information I found interesting on the history of the planetarium was, “The National Maritime Museum (NMM) was formally established by Act of Parliament in 1934 and opened to the public by King George VI on 27 April, 1937. It includes the 17th-century Queen’s House and from the 1950s, the Royal Observatory, Greenwich”. I believe this novel offers numerous historic information. It is definitely a key source to “Mapping Englishness”.


These historic places and references are what makes London the city it is today. The good things, like the historic history museum and also the tragic things like the Blitz. This history makes London what is now. People and their spaces shaped the city of London. The Blitz was an event that took advantage of London and made the people of the city live in fear at the time. The people of London had to shape their space to protect themselves. According to the article people were so afraid of their homes being bombed at night that some would sleep in the underground tube stations and others would sleep in “Anderson Shelters” if they could not protect themselves.

According to the novel on page 85, “For wait they must, along with everyone else, in the straggling unruly queue for admission to the Planetarium… There are waxwork figures of the great physicists and astronomers swept in turn by strobe lighting as the voice gives a rundown of their aspiration and achievements. Einstein, wearing a brown jersey and grey flannels, sits perched on a large glass disc, staring without expression at the polyglot and cosmopolitan crowd that shuffles past, eating sweets and sucking Coke through straws. Matthew finds this scene intolerably dispiriting.”

This passage here I believe is important to London’s Englishness and where it stands in the present day. It is pointing out how people are not even acknowledging historic and very intellectual people who changed are world. It is explaining how these monumental, and inspirational people are just being ignored by others. They are rushing past them like they are not important at all to history. I think it is also trying to say that the people may have been not paying enough respect to them.

These historic references throughout the novel trying Map Englishness and are a part of what makes London the city it is today.





One thought on ““The City of the Mind” By: Penelope Lively

  1. Hello Jen! I really enjoyed reading your blog post! I wonder if you saw the section on the Blitz in the Docklands Museum? They provided interesting information about London through the war. One of the images that I really enjoyed was the stained glass entitled “Remembering the War” the plaque next to it states the artist used the colors to demonstrate London in the middle of the blitz and afterward. I think it is interesting that both the artist and Lively used colors to describe the Blitz.

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