I'm looking for fiction that vividly describes the physical and social atmosphere of a city or town, the way Dickens captures Coketown in
I am not merely interested in novels that are specifically about the timeline of a certain city (e.g., Edward Rutherfurd's New York: The Novel
), but rather any story in which that city or town plays a central role and is explored from many angles. The livelier the descriptions, the better.
An example of what I have in mind is this paragraph, from Charles Dickens' Hard Times
, in which the author first illustrates the main setting of Coketown:
It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood, it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness. It contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and to-morrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next.
This short paragraph immediately sketches out all the things we need to know about Coketown: smog and industrial runoff, endless and terrible labor for its people, and lack of humanity or imagination or hope. The novel goes on to develop these images in detail.
This is related to a writing project of my own. Bonus points for 19th-century novels, but anything you can think of will help. Thank you!