Sunday, December 13, 2009

Review: Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British

From the Publisher:

Dispatches from the new Britain: a slyly funny and compulsively readable portrait of a nation finally refurbished for the twenty-first century.

Sarah Lyall, a reporter for the New York Times, moved to London in the mid-1990s and soon became known for her amusing and incisive dispatches on her adopted country. As she came to terms with its eccentric inhabitants (the English husband who never turned on the lights, the legislators who behaved like drunken frat boys, the hedgehog lovers, the people who extracted their own teeth), she found that she had a ringside seat at a singular transitional era in British life. The roller-coaster decade of Tony Blair's New Labor government was an increasingly materialistic time when old-world symbols of aristocratic privilege and stiff-upper-lip sensibility collided with modern consumerism, overwrought emotion, and a new (but still unsuccessful) effort to make the trains run on time. Appearing a half-century after Nancy Mitford's classic Noblesse Oblige, Lyall's book is a brilliantly witty account of twenty-first-century Britain that will be recognized as a contemporary classic.

My Review:

I definitely consider myself an Anglophile - I have long been fascinated by all things British. My Dad is from Scotland and I grew up listening to the hood of the car referred to as the "bonnet" and the trunk referred to as the "boot" of the car. My Dad and Grandmother instilled in me a love for an appreciation for "British-isms" and trips back to visit family only fueled that appreciation. I have always been fascinated by how the US and Britain are very alike but oh so very different. For that reason, I was drawn to this book . . . . My review is below:

I have mixed feelings about this book - at times, very funny in its observations of the British and their culture but at other times, the author just sounded like an obnoxious American perpetually complaining about how inferior Britain is to the US. She, rarely, if at all, pointed out anything positive about the British - this seems very one-sided! It is is more unsettling when you consider that she is married to a Brit with whom she has two children that she is raising in the UK.

Despite this, I found the book entertaining (but less so than something by Bill Bryson) and think that people that have lived in both the US and the UK will find it interesting.


  1. I love the UK too! Sometimes, I think I was born in the wrong country.

    I'll have to check this book out, but I'll probably have the same issues with it that you did. I'm not a big fan of the American superiority complex.

  2. Thanks for joining the party and linking up this review. You did a great job expressing your feelings in this review. Thanks for the honesty!


  3. +JMJ+

    The concept is interesting, but I agree with Michelle that any country's superiority complex can really ruin a good read.

    On the other hand, I know what it's like to be homesick in a country very much like and yet very much unlike my own--and if I wrote a book about the experience, I'd probably take the same tone you detect in Lyall's writing, though I don't think I'd mean to!