The English

This is the second book I’ve read by Jeremy Paxman, and something I’ve considered picking up in the past. It’s a description of English psyche and self-image as a nation, how it developed over the centuries, and how it continues to develop (some might say errode) in present times. There’s plenty of historical research, and quotes and material based on interviews with scores of worthies from accross the political and social spectrum, but I found the overall results slightly bland – interesting enough, but mostly factual material with very few actual insights.

In constrast, the previous work I read, ‘The Political Animal’, has a similar format (interviews, quotes and research) but had a clearer narrative progression and generall kept my interest.1 There was one conclusion I thoroughly agreed with, best expressed by a British architect now working in the Netherlands – most of Britain has never really embraced an urban lifestyle, always asspring to live in sight of fields, and hence forcing the suburban sprawl ever outwards. There were some classic quotes from even recent prime ministers using a long-dead vision of rural Englang as rhetoric, followed by material from long-standing residents of such places – mostly despairing about the arrival of the noveau riche from London, who promptly start complaining about the mud and smell, and demaning things be prettied up.

  1. It also features one of the greatest ever ‘endorsement’ quotes on the back cover: “It left me disappointed” – William Hague []
Posted Sunday, June 15th, 2008 under books.

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