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A Tall Man In A Low Land: Some Time Among the Belgians [Kindle Edition]

Harry Pearson
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Most British travel writers head south for a destination that is hot, exotic, dangerous or all three. Harry Pearson chose to head in the opposite direction for a country which is damp, safe and of legendary banality: Belgium. But can any nation whose most famous monument is a statue of a small boy urinating really be that dull? Pearson lived there for several months, burying himself in the local culture. He drank many of the 800 different beers the Belgians produce; ate local delicacies such as kip kap (jellied pig cheeks) and a mighty tonnage of chicory and chips. In one restaurant the house speciality was 'Hare in the style of grandmother'. 'I didn't order it. I quite like hare, but had no wish to see one wearing zip-up boots and a blue beret.' A TALL MAN IN A LOW LAND commemorates strange events such as The Festival of Shrimps at Oostduinkerke and laments the passing of the Underpant Museum in Brussels. No reader will go away from A TALL MAN IN A LOW LAND without being able to name at least ten famous Belgians. Mixing evocative description and low-grade buffoonery Harry Pearson paints a portrait of Belgium that is more rounded than a Smurf after a night on the mussels.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Belgium has had its share of defining moments: the treaty of Vienna after Napoleon, two world wars and, rounding out the 20th century, contaminated Coke come to mind. In A Tall Man in a Low Land the curmudgeonly comic Harry Pearson grabs this theme in his teeth and, growling through the lowlands, asks "what the bloody hell am I doing here?" Along the way, Pearson bumps into some curiously sympathetic observers, the Belgians themselves. His meandering path of puns and one-liners describes the land of the Flemish and the French Walloons: two worlds for the price of one.

Pearson wisely skirts Brussels, the home of the 17th-century statue of the Manneken-Pis, Belgium's unfortunate guidebook equivalent to Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower. Instead he heads into the countryside, taking a poke at sights no guide would have the guts to mention: the life-threatening preoccupation with electrical DIY projects and a Flemish landscape of garden ornaments littering every nook and cranny. Such observations are fuelled by Pearson's ability to deliver detail with a punch line though he doesn't approach Bill Bryson's story-telling ease.

Pearson began the trip in search of insight into one of Europe's most densely populated countries and concludes that the Belgians suffer from low self esteem. Then, with the wit that defines a traveller's tale over a guide book, Pearson reveals their common bond: 100 different beers and 35,000 cafes. After all, as Pearson reminds us, how can you not love a country that gave the British bitter, ale and chips? --Kathleen Buckley


Pearson is as tall as he is funny and, believe me, he is very tall (THE FACE)

funnier than Bill Bryson (Pete Davies, THE INDEPENDENT)

[Belgium] seems a great deal more interesting at the end of the book than it did at the beginning... Pearson is really funny. Do not read this book in a public place. (Jonathan Sale)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 333 KB
  • Print Length: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; Reprinted Edition edition (6 Jun. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #97,919 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great bedtime read 8 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
I was given this book for Christmas by my Aunt, who had seen it in a local book shop when looking around, and had noticed it from the subtitle "Some Time Among The Belgians" and thought it would appeal to me. Harry Pearson was hitherto known to me for his "Fever Pitch"esque book about life in the North East as a Sunderland supporter, covering the 1993/94 season, and also for his contribution to When Saturday Comes - the half decent football magazine.
Having lived in Belgium myself, I was able to empathise a lot with Pearson's point of view, notably his comment that their "passion for DIY electrics leaves a permanent smell of singed eyebrows in the air". Whereas books like "The Xenophobes guide to the Belgians" is very upbeat, with myths dispelled and Belgium generally promoted, even if they are guilty of producing Atomium underpants (hmm...), Harry Pearson portrays it as it really is, namely that it's grim in Belgium.
If you are planning a trip to Belgium, you might be dissuaded from the accounts of general lack of pride, self-esteem and shoddyness, especially shown by the frequent mentions of DIY prowess. You may dismiss this as a caricature or cameo of what Belgian life is like, thinking that Pearson has just done the usual and flitted around the country and left. However this is not the case, as Pearson, along with his partner and their daughter, has seemed to have been everywhere there is to go in Belgium.
The book is broken down into ten chapters, each of which tends to focus around a different group of places, or a different facet of life, whether it be bureaucracy, cycling, architecture, or the murderous Leopold II.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious - it made me cry laughing 24 Mar. 2000
By A Customer
As a Brit living in Belgium for years I thought I had seen and heard of most of the idiosyncracies of the Belgians. The many that I recognised (and that the Belgians, be they from Wallonia or Flanders, will cheerfully admit to) were beautifully described - hence the crying with laughter. He truly has a talent for describing interactions with people. I could just picture the situations. I knew I would enjoy it from the early description of his attempts to get information from the Belgian Tourist and I was not disappointed.
However, I also learnt a lot from the book. He does not shy away from tackling some of Belgium's darker side - and let's face it, every country has one - but his observations were thought-provoking and he avoids being judgemental. You don't need to have been to Belgium to appreciate this, just interested in people. If you read the book for just one laugh, read the section about the names for shops specialising in canine care!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Most of the time, I enjoyed reading this book, me, a 37-year-old Belgian, living in Antwerp. Strangely, a visit to this important Belgian town was not included in the book. Owing to Mr Pearson's system of describing the oddities of a country rather than giving a boring account of a typical touristic guiding. Mostly, he is well-informed and succeeds in mentioning historical information throughout his numerous travels in our clumsy country. We don't always understand his humour, however, but, the author has always kept the balance between laughing at the Belgians and laughing at himself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant stroll through a small country 12 April 2003
After reading Pearson's superb journey through the football of the North East of England in 'The Far Corner' I was suitably impressed enough to follow his exploits in Belgium. Despite being a travel book, his journey seems to have had little organisation as Pearson route through the country can best be described as haphazard. A line of his journey would resemble a zig-zag more than anything.
Yet this is how Pearson views his stay in Belgium. Rather than being a straightforward walkthrough of linear progression, Pearson actually resides there for a time, allowing himself to wallow in Belgium culture and gradually absorbing the makeup of the nation and it's various eccentricities as well as getting to know the Belgians and their various peccadillos.
While I wasn't particularly interested in Belgium to begin with, Pearson's beguiling Palinesque bemusement in a foreign land is endearing and helps to connect the reader with the subject. The author has a wonderful store of metaphors collected from his upbringing which are liberally sprinkled to keep you laughing.
While I enjoyed the book I don't have much of a fondness for Belgium than I already possessed. The author for me was the interest in the book, much more interesting than the subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Generally very funny tome from a guy with a very dry, sardonic sense of humour. Possibly a little too much historical padding but neverltheless an extremely well written and amusing book. A one one for the holidays.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Having been to Belgium only twice in my life, this country had me intrigued. It is small and often overlooked and its waffles with chocolate sauce are to die for. Yet it is famous for more things and more people than i realised (I could only name Hercule Poirot as a famous Belgian prior to reading the book!). Harry Pearsons book made me want to jump on the eurostar to Bruxelles/Brussels and hug a walloon/flemish person. it is a well written book that is neither a travel guide nor a history book nor a vehicle for harry pearsons comedic writing - it is all of them rolled into one and well balanced too.

I highly recommend this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Well if you've spent some time in the low countries ...
Well if you've spent some time in the low countries this is true observation of the quirkiness of the Belgium's a very misunderstood nation . Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jelly brain 1
4.0 out of 5 stars Booktrail of a peeing boy and a museum of underpants!
The most famous monument in Belgium is a statue of a small boy urinating. What other oddities and interesting facts can Harry Pearson discover? Well, quite a few as it turns out. Read more
Published 8 months ago by thebooktrailer
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad, bad, bad, burn
This book is not funny, but it is badly written with many grammatical mistakes that a journalist should have known better. Read more
Published on 26 Dec. 2012 by Retsoc
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good read... but Harry missed out on Mechelen...! Unforgivable...
I decided to buy this book after two other books by Harry, (who I met at Lord's earlier this year where he won the 2011 Cricket book Award for "Slipless in Settle") left a very... Read more
Published on 1 Sept. 2011 by Maneblusser 7
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and insulting
I'm afraid I have to disagree with the reviewers who say this book is funny. It made me smile about 3 times, getting nowhere near laughing. That would be the least of my troubles. Read more
Published on 24 Feb. 2011 by Inese Duka
3.0 out of 5 stars The Banal and the Bizarre Come Together in Belgium
It must be said that Harry Pearson's book "A Tall Man in a Low Land: Some Time Among The Belgians" - whilst a serviceable and amusing account of this small but central European... Read more
Published on 6 Jan. 2011 by J. R. Brookes
5.0 out of 5 stars Some Time Among the Belgians
Passionate, witty, partly historic and immensely readable. The author balances healthy skeptiscism with genuine praise for this country. Read more
Published on 2 Dec. 2010 by Zorro1973
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much to do with Belgium
This is indeed a funny book, even if the author doesn't know much about Belgium. A bit like Borat and Kazakhstan. Read more
Published on 17 July 2009 by French legal translator
3.0 out of 5 stars Blinkered view of a beautiful country
This book was given to me as a gift, as I am a frequent and enthusiastic visitor to this country of unknown treasures. Read more
Published on 14 Jan. 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars A cracking good read
As a fairly regular visitor to this part of the world, I bought this book anticipating it would be a Brysonesque wander through the major towns and sights of Belgium, but no, here... Read more
Published on 28 Feb. 2001
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