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Mother Tongues: Travels Through Tribal Europe Hardcover – 26 Oct 2001


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (26 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330372807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330372800
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 3.7 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 716,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

A hugely ambitious project, a mix of anthropology, history, politics and travelogue, but Drysdale brings it off brilliantly. -- Sunday Times

It is a great subject, and she does it more than justice in this unpretentious, well-written, sad and funny book. -- Literary Review

Mother Tongues is humane and scholarly, and wonderfully interwoven with the stress of child-care at very close quarters. -- Independent on Sunday

My book of the year...Drysdale’s writing is simultaneously engrossing, descriptive and diverting. She is the best of travelling companions. -- The Times

Rich in anecdote and linguistic analysis, in expert reportage and insight...Drysdale’s powers of description are as fresh as ever. -- Evening Standard --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Over eighteen months Helena Drysdale and her family rattled over the roads and motorways of Europe in their mobile home. Their journey took them to the heart of tribal Europe: to the Frisian Islands, Samiland, the Basque country; to Macedonia, Corsica and Provence. Curious and sympathetic, Drysdale sought out Europe’s indigenous tribes and took stock of their place in our modern world, analysing the vital link between language and identity and capturing beautifully many of the voices and cultures that are already fading away. ‘This is a hugely ambitious project, a mix of anthropology, history, politics and travelogue, but Drysdale brings it off brilliantly . . . If you still have doubts about the relevance of travel writing in the twenty-first century, this book will satisfy them’ Sunday Times ‘Every page of her new book carries the imprint of her originality of thought and expression’ New Statesman ‘A rather magnificent family journey’ Times Literary Supplement ‘Rich . . . expert . . . beautiful’ Evening Standard ‘Humane and scholarly . . . wonderful’ Independent ‘My book of the year’ The Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 Feb 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The idea of the book tempted me to buy it, though I wish I'd been warned off by the reviewer who commented that it would have been improved by less information about the author's kids. It is less a book about the minority languages of Europe and more a family diary of an overlong holiday. I was torn between feeling sorry for Tallulah (being dragged away from her friends to live in a converted lorry) and wishing the child would behave well enough so that there could be more information on the topic the book is supposed to be about.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Jan 2003
Format: Paperback
The author travels with her husband and 2 young children through Europe in search of "tribal Europe" - Europe's (mostly)stateless "tribes" such as the Catalans, Bretons, Macedonians & others, including some you probably haven't heard of. She investigates their history , politics, language and lifestyles and paints a lively picture of Europe's nooks & crannies. Though rather low on humour, and containing rather more trivia about her children than I wanted to know, it's a compelling and illuminating read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Laszlo Wagner on 9 Jan 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is a mixture of a travelogue, investigative journalism and history combined, written by a sympathetic amateur.
The author set out with her husband and two small children in a mobile home to visit many of the stateless minorities living in Western Europe, from the Sami in northern Scandinavia to the Sardinians in the South, from the Macedonians in the Balkans to the Breton in the West. Regrettably, Gaelic-speaking minorities of Britain and Ireland are omitted from the book.
Though I was somewhat baffled by her often decidedly ad hoc approach to finding informants and the family's hippy or gypsy style travel (complete with unwashed clothes and lice), overall she has presented a fascinating look at Europe from a very unusual angle.
Reading about often tiny minorities struggling to preserve their identity, culture and language under rather different circumtances in the various European countries, one can't fail to be shocked by the ignorance or even hostility exhibited towards them by many of the supposedly democratic nation states they live in.
Rather than case studies presented in a dry, academic manner, the fate of each group and their language is depicted through personal impressions of them and their lands by a layman (well, woman) and personal accounts of various members of these "tribes". This manages to bring the issue to life, giving us a good feel of what the minorities themselves think about their own history, present situation and future prospects.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Natalie Smith on 1 Mar 2006
Format: Paperback
I love this book. It weaves together two strands, about the endangered minorities of Europe, and about travelling quite rough with a young family over a period of 18 months. Each really enhances the other. The story is about Helena Drysdale and her husband and two daughters (one still a baby) who set off in a camper van to discover more about the little-known peoples of Europe - the Sami, Basques, Corsicans and so on. She immersed herself in these peoples' culture, discovering all she could about what makes them tick: their languages, history, literature, music. But when the story threatens to get bogged down in esoteric details of linguistics, you cut back to daily family life. This acts as a sort of leavening - it lightens the tone, and is often very funny.
I have never raad a book like this before, which is so ambitious in its scope - covering most of western Europe. Each chapter is almost like a book in its own right, and has been thoroughly researched, while never being too heavy.
I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the endangered peoples of Europe, whose lives are at risk almsot as much as the endangered plants and animals we hear so much more about.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Jan 2004
Format: Paperback
I bought this book for its fascinating subject matter but as I read I found myself increasingly distracted and irritated by the presence of two badly-behaved children and by their parents' indulgent attitude to their behaviour. The author has completely disregarded the principle that one's children are profoundly fascinating only to their own parents, and I really could have done without details of Tallulah's toilet visits and nose-picking.
That said, I gained good insights into the psyche of stateless ethnic minorities in Europe, but unfortunately for me this was overshadowed by the endless minutiae of family life in a camper van.
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