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Real England: The Battle Against the Bland [Paperback]

Paul Kingsnorth
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 6.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 Jun 2009
This book offers a rousing and inclusive call to arms for anyone who would identify themselves as "English" against the forces of globalisation.We see the signs around us every day: the chain cafes and mobile phone outlets that dominate our high streets; the disappearance of knobbly carrots from our supermarket shelves; and the headlines about yet another traditional industry going to the wall. For the first time, here is a book that makes the connection between these isolated, incremental, local changes and the bigger picture of a nation whose identity is being eroded. As he travels around the country meeting farmers, fishermen, and the inhabitants of Chinatown, Paul Kingsnorth will refract the kind of conversations that are taking place in country pubs and corner shops across the land - while reminding us that these quintessentially English institutions may soon cease to exist.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (1 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846270421
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846270420
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Looking back on my work over the last fifteen years or so, I think that my writing is primarily about two things: connection and loss.

The connections are those between people and places, people and power, people and nature. Here in the West, we have built (or, more likely, accidentally slid into over time) a strange culture of disconnection: increasingly cut off from nature, from our history and provenance, from each other, from the wild reality outside the bubble of our civilisation. We have built a culture of consumer isolation, and I am haunted by the losses which this has brought about. I want to know what has been lost, what is left, what it means.

I have published two books of political non-fiction and one collection of poetry. Two novels sit unpublished and unloved on my hard drive. I am currently finishing a third, which I hope to publish in 2012. I have also written a lot of journalism and far too many blogs, and am co-founder of a literary and cultural movement - the Dark Mountain project ( - for which I wrote a manifesto and edit an ongoing series of books. More on all of this can be found on my website at:

Product Description


'A crucially important book; the most significant account of today's England I have read' - Independent -- Review

'A fine piece of journalism, original and thought-provoking ... An angry and brilliant book' -Sunday Herald -- Review

'Comes as close as any recent book has to defining modern-day "Englishness"' -Observer -- Review

'Everyone should read this book ... Go now, buy this and do something before it's too late' -Guardian -- Review

`An important book ... a reminder that if we don't like what is happening, we should take action' - The Times -- Review


'Comes as close as any recent book has to defining modern-day "Englishness"' -Observer

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Statement of truth 3 Jun 2008
By Tom
You'd think that a book entitled 'Real England' might have much of an audience north of Newcastle. But while the tales in this book, which detail the disappearance of local shops, the death of the farming community and the end of the pub, have a particular resonance for the English - who do retailing, farming and drinking better than just about anyone - the Scots, Welsh and Irish too can share the concerns raised in it. Because the sort of decline witnessed in this book is happening everywhere in Britain.

The book is relentlessly - and inevitably - depressing. That shouldn't be taken to mean that it isn't readable (on the contrary: I polished it off in a weekend). But the narrative throughout almost inescapably leads to the feeling that those small, almost unnoticed things that together made England special have passed forever. And yet... the author details pockets of resistance to the disappearing core of English life. Will this book inspire others to act, or simply a fine valedictory epitaph to England? Time will tell. But I urge you to read it either way.

I don't think other reviewers have mentioned the fantastic cover design - really clever and eye catching and a big factor in me picking up the book in the first place.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BE ANGRY 1 July 2008
By Lutobar
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've just read this and loved it. Kingsnorth writes passionately and, where needed, beautifully. Many of us will recognise bits of the picture he paints, but what he does is to bring it (the human impact of the destruction of English localities) alive in a single compelling narrative. You need to read this; and having done so you need to be angry. If you are like me you may also feel strangely drawn to wanting to buy Kingsnorth a pint.

A couple of observations. Part of the solution, he says, is to give local communities power over the matters which affect them, and he finds encouragement in the Government's "community empowerment" initiative. I hope he's right, but it must be doubtful whether the Government will let anything get in the way of national economic performance. The department responsible for community empowerment is also responsible for some of the main agents/engines of economic performance - planning, housing, and "regional development".

Kingsnorth's argument, rightly in my opinion, emphasises the importance of relationship to place in human identity. But relationship to community is also important, and doesn't get a mention. At the same time as place is being destroyed, communities are also being disrupted by the rapid demographic change resulting from increasing mobility and mass immigration. Part of the solution to this may be to rebuild community through sense of place, but this wouldn't sit easily with Kingsnorth's desire for continuity with the past.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wake-up call 9 May 2008
By Mr X
I enjoyed Mr Kingsnorth's book a lot. I certainly was an eye-opener in many respects. The book discuss the fact that England (and no doubt many other countries - but this book focuses on England) is being effectively colonised by corporate power. The book illustrates the point by several examples; the takeover of pubs by chain pub companies, the destruction of the countryside way of life by agri-industry, the privatisation of public spaces to make them safe for high street stores and consumerism etc etc.

The idea expressed by the book is powerful and it does make one feel fairly angry that the government is unwilling or unable to stop the corporate takeover of the country. Given that more wealth and material goods do not make people happier (a proven fact) what are the benefits of this? Well the shareholders of the companies involved no doubt benefit but the cost is ruined ways of life, town centres with no local flavour which have all had the "high street makeover" and generally impoverished culture, not to mention damaged family lives due to increased work hours as a result of the perceived need to keep up with the consumers next door.

It is a pity the English do not stand up to this. Some might think this is just a nostalgic view of things but the author's point is that he is not anti-change but anti-inappropriate change. The only downside of the book is I would have liked to hear more about what can be done (only 1 chapter out of about 10 is devoted to this). After all the problem is not that people love big out-of-town supermarkets and the effects they have on once unique town centres, but it is more that they are so convenient for time-pressed people - the big question is how to persuade people to change their behaviour to dent corporate power and give the little guy a chance. Let us all hope it can be done before the whole country turns into one big corporate blandscape!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important book discussing vital issues 29 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Paul Kingsnorth is a seasoned activist/campaigner on globalisation versus local empowerment and environmental issues. Here he undertakes a travelogue of changes in the ecology of his native country, England. There's a predictable list of disgruntled publicans, cafe owners, canal enthusiasts and small farmers, their complaints about threats to their ways of life ranged against shoulder-shrugging developers and CEOs invoking the necessity for 'progress', by which they mean development in favour of bland, uniform, chain-store provision for the well-off and those who aspire to be. At the end Paul Kingsnorth bravely (if briefly- thus 4 rather than 5 stars) embarks on a discussion of Englishness, that hate-objects of the bourgeois-liberal media, as capable of imparting an imagined community which might in the end be able to resist the onward march of the globally bland. It's certainly worth pondering, as the South East of England in particular becomes little more than a geographical expression devoid of any ethnic, political or ideological resonance; but is it too late? The young middle class internationalist humanists who work in London, and for whom any invocation of England is at best irrelevant, at worst (and usually) racist, will take a lot of persuading: a cultural revolution, no less. Then again, since London is the nub of the problem, the sooner it declares UDI and leaves the rest of us to sort out what being English might actually mean, the better.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Pedantic
This book tends to be a bit turgid. Each chapter explores a different theme exploring what the author perceives as a threat to the old ways of British life - but the author rather... Read more
Published 8 months ago by BALEX
4.0 out of 5 stars Bland Britain
Very true description of the sad state of our country as globalisation reaches every corner of the isle, hastened on by the internet and controlled by big business.
Published 10 months ago by R. W. Ellis
5.0 out of 5 stars Real England
Cool price fast service , What else can I say it's a book for " gods Sake " . I think amazon has it's knickers in a knot .
Published 11 months ago by mr. l. gunn
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
A bit heavy going at times but i can see where the author is coming from and agree with what he says
Published 11 months ago by MR P C WOGDEN
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsory reading
At least it should be, for everyone in Britain today. A celebration of the things which made Britain great but which are disappearing rapidly. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Richard
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insightful read
Read this after Mark Rylance recommended it in an interview about Jerusalem. Thought-provoking without being soap-boxy and a very engaging writing style.
Published 12 months ago by Amazonaddicted
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Made me think of my young days, in the seventies with Woolworths, C and A and the local corner shop. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mrs. B. Steadman
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!
A well researched, wonderfully written book about the loss of what makes England unique and special and what can be done about it. Read more
Published 21 months ago by disgruntled of Haringay
5.0 out of 5 stars Made me think!
I found this a most thought provoking book, it's made me open my eyes to what is happening in the area where I live. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Jocelyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Reactionary Rubbish
I don't think so. This excellent book says what many on the left say but if they don't say it, they label it reactionary or worse.
Published 23 months ago by ClassicRob
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