It is the characters of a story that make it what it is – they drive the plot and latch on to our minds and weather the storms of memory to stay in it. But are all characters human? Cant there be living, breathing spaces that feature as a character in books by shaping it, sculpting it, giving it roots and anchors? Yes – cities can be characters too – and here are 8 books where a city features as a character.

Milk Teeth by Amrita Mahale

Books Where a City Features as a Character - Milk Teeth
Books Where a City Features as a Character – Milk Teeth

Straddling two timelines in the same geographical space of Matunga, Mumbai, Mahale’s story is about childhood friends who grow up in unexpected ways. Through the zeitgeist of the 1990s, to the changed cityscape of modern times, this book is at once a love letter to the city, and an exploration of how individuals navigate it.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

After Dark
Books Where a City Features as a Character – After Dark

This book tells the magical realist story of a host of characters through the period of one single night in Tokyo. Not only are the events in the story magical, but the setting also seems dreamlike, distant but evocative and touched by magic. It sets the mood for the entire story, and introduces elements of singularity in it.

Paris for One by Jojo Moyes

Books Where a City Features as a Character - Paris for One
Books Where a City Features as a Character – Paris for One

This novella follows a woman whose boyfriend cancels on their trip to Paris while she’s at the railway station. So this timid, shy girl goes out of her comfort zone to explore Paris by herself. Throughout the book, we immerse ourselves in the lovelorn romance of Paris. The cafes, the Eiffel Tower, the glamour as well as native romance and lifestyle are the stuff of dreams.

Ulysses by James Joyce

Ulysses
Ulysses

Nobody has immortalized a city like Joyce has in his Dubliners. These are fifteen stories, all revolving around ordinary Dubliners. These stories reveal as much as about Dublin as they do about the people dwelling it, making this book an exemplar of the genre of city literature.

The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

Books Where a City Features as a Character - The Bridges of Madison County
Books Where a City Features as a Character – The Bridges of Madison County

Unfolding in the heat of an Iowa summer is this tender love story between Francesca and Robert. Francesca, a married woman, meets Robert when her family is away for four days. They fall in love and part, for she doesn’t want to forego her family or their social standing. However, the romance, which features ‘the bridges of Madison county’ and the heart of Iowa is breathtaking.

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer
Books Where a City Features as a Character – Tropic of Cancer

This is yet another book about Paris, but is very different from Moyes’. Miller’s narrator is a bohemian American writer who comes to Paris to earn a living. Usually broke and deeply entrenched in promiscuity, Miller’s protagonist navigates Paris with unrivaled zest and decadence. The city itself is almost the co-protagonist, whose romance with Miller’s hero is our primary conflict.

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

Books Where a City Features as a Character - The Lives of Others
Books Where a City Features as a Character – The Lives of Others

The City of Joy, Kolkata, by virtue of its distinctive culture and colonial legacy, is one of its kind. And although many narratives surround the city, this one in specific explores it in its entirety. Through a family saga, we view the shifting cityscapes as the Naxalite movement and other political factors change its tectonic plates.

Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

Clear Light of Day
Clear Light of Day

Delhi, the soul of India, and a city of its own kind, sets the tone for this poignant book by Desai. Even as it deals with relationships and the changes they bring about, it also features the schizophrenia between traditionality and modernity, as well as diverging ancestries. It’s a book to devour, because of its setting just as much as its characters.

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