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Mustn't Grumble Paperback – 4 Jun 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (4 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141652603X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416526032
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 594,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joe Bennett was brought up near Brighton, England, went to Brighton Grammar School and Cambridge University, taught English in a few safe countries, then went to New Zealand for a year in 1987 and somehow stayed. In 1998 he gave up teaching to become a newspaper columnist and travel writer.

He's been New Zealand's Columnist of the Year three times, has published a dozen collections of his columns in NZ and three worldwide, and has written four travel books published by Simon and Schuster UK.

His 'Where Underpants Come From', which traces the constituents of a pair of cheap Chinese-made underpants back to source, was the Whitcoulls Travcom Travel Book of the Year 2009, and is being translated into Korean, Greek and Chinese. The author photo shows not only, and perhaps regrettably, the author but also the underpants in question and what may have been the field in remote Xinjiang where the cotton grew.

Product Description

Review

"In the face of waning traditions and modern tensions, [Bennett] still manages to capture the essence of England." --"Kirkus Reviews"

About the Author

Joe Bennett was born in Brighton and since leaving Cambridge University has taught English in a variety of countries including Canada, Spain and New Zealand. He lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Joe HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
"Slough seems to have no definable edge ... Slough just sort of happens." - from MUSTN'T GRUMBLE

In 2005, expatriate author Joe Bennet returned to England, his birthplace, from his residence in New Zealand to literally and figuratively follow in the footsteps of H.V. Morton (In Search of England, 1926) and endeavor to discover the essence of contemporary England.

As a disclaimer here, I must tell you that England (and the rest of Great Britain) is my pet country of those that I've visited in my lifetime, and London is my favorite city in the world. Indeed, I read most of this book on my recent vacation there, and finished it on the plane home. So, I'm biased.

One who's read Morton's travel essay (as I have) and feels as affectionate about England (as I do) will soon realize Bennet's book won't be quite so warm and fuzzy when the author states early on that while Morton was a child of the Empire with a veneration for it, he himself, of a later generation born when the Empire had mostly crumbled away, has no such reverence. Despite his book's title, then, the author does grumble. For example, in describing the cluster of historically-themed, tacky tourist entrapments that Land's End has become, he grouses:

"None of these things pretend to be anything but froth. But this stuff purports to have some bearing on reality. It is a travesty of the past and of the present. It represents the divorce of language from meaning and the divorce of cosseted urban contemporary man from any sense of the actual world he lives in ... The place deserves bombing.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Alastair S. Moir on 17 July 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a cracking read. Bennett, with the advantage of returning to England after years of absence, is able to view the Country, and more importantly it's people with wisdom, honesty and, most importantly a great deal of humour.

Thankfully, he does not come to mock nor reinforce the "bettter in my day" attitude so prevelant in the poular press. He finds many things which will make you laugh out loud but there are also touching moments where some of the good people he meets shine through.

This is more than a travel book. In tracing the footsteps of Morton, Bennett has produced a brilliantly written, enthralling picture of England as she really is. Buy it, you will not be disappointed.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Devon on 12 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
Comparisons with Bill Bryson are inevitable, but so what? There are many different ways to approach similar topics, as witness the vast number of travelogues written over the decades/centures by people wandering through Britain. This is the down-market, rather grubbier version of Bryson. I have lived outside the UK about as long as Bennett, and bought the book during a layover at Gatwick, looking for another Brit's view on England from afar, but from the moment I read about Bennett trying to hitchhike in England - come on, is he really that far out of touch? - I knew this was going to be uninspiring. And it is; in fact, it is downright depressing, and shows many of England's warts with few (other than wistful reflections about the scenery) of its pleasures. Bennett seems to talk to very few people outside pubs, those he does come across are mainly either rude or wishing they could leave England or commenting on how the place is going to the dogs, and he offers little insight into the way England thinks, or how he now sees things after 20 years away. It's funny in parts, but bleak in many more.
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Format: Paperback
Bennett chooses Morton's classic travelogue as the hook for his own, and perhaps both he and the reader know from the start that Morton's England is more myth than reality. Which is just as well: there are a million books gushing about Stonehenge, stately homes, and the rest of the tourist trail tick-list items which have little to do with real life. Bennett ably, and often hilariously, skewers the fake authenticity which often mars the tourist experience, while building up a love and appreciation of a more genuine England: pork pies, pub culture, the infamous weather (which Bennett truly appreciates), beautiful if undramatic landscapes. Occasionally he interweaves autobiographical episodes from his former life in England, to excellent effect. The overall result is by turns funny, thought-provoking, and bittersweet, and gave me (as an expat Brit) a keener appreciation of many of the things I love about my country. I'm not sure if Bennett's England is better than Morton's, but Bennett's has the advantage of actually existing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Vita on 28 July 2013
Format: Paperback
Why do I not like this author fom only a few words in? I kept reading as the journey itself is interesting, I like Bill Bryson - who is funny - and Morton - who is Morton - and a trip around England - which has changed beyond recognition in man y ways - but this writer is sneering in tone and even when I agree with him I hate him! I wouldn't enjoy the Scouts Parade either, but I love it's happening and wouldn't publically ridicule it - I get the feeling he wants it to carry on but is afraid to say so. He is sadly without any humour so cannot get across what I hope is his real message. Heavens above, he doesn't even enjoy driving an alright motor ! Please, send him back to New Zealand and get someone with a zest for life to do this, or any trip!
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