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The Angry Island: Hunting the English Hardcover – 10 Nov 2005


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; First Edition edition (10 Nov. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297843184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297843184
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 825,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

his prose floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee and, just when you least expect it, lands a deft and lethal blow beneath the belt. (Terence Blacker THE SUNDAY TIMES)

the author is on typically quick-witted form. (Jim Blackburn WANDERLUST)

one can admire the zest of the writing and applaud its splendid lack of political correctness. (Beryl Bainbridge THE MAIL ON SUNDAY)

he writes beautifully. His chapter on war memorials should be a set text, his defence of political correctness is bold and true, and he really nails the philosophy of the queue. (Peter Watts TIME OUT)

Book Description

Foreigner Adrian Gill (a Scot) goes in search of the essence of England and the English

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. Wilson on 1 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought, and read this book because I heard it praised on a radio programme. It turned out to be a very patchy read with some excellent moments set among boring half hours. Much of it reads as though a journalist has broken free from an editor and is taking his chance to show off his extensive vocabulary. Streams of long adjectives precede the nouns. Triplicate nouns are used to show that Mr. Gill can afford a thesaurus and is not afraid to use it. The book badly needs an editor to cut it down to size.

Occasionally he can be very funny. But when he is being witty (he tells us he is far too lofty for jokes) he seems to sneer at his countrymen. He condemns their snobbery, but indulges in snobbery himself. He slates their narrow emotional range, but shows little variation in emotion himself. He invites us to laugh at their prejudices, but his book show he is far from being an open-minded man. It's a book of bile and spite.

Mr. Gill has viewed the English nation and found it to be a mirror for his mood. He sees the English as an angry bunch. This is an excuse for him to exhibit his anger, and he is a very angry man. The book is a talented sixth former's transcription of a spoilt toddler's tantrum. If you find anger funny, by all means buy it. If you want to understand the English go for Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into the English Mind, a far better, more thoughtful book by Julian Baggini.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. C. Morris on 23 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
Okay, this isn't a travelogue or historical analysis of the English exactly. Gill gets to visit a handful of locations if that: Hadrian's Wall, London's Soho, Letchworth Garden City, the Cotswolds. Overall, however, this is a polemic, a lacerating take on what makes the English tick from the point of view of a Scotsman who can masquerade as the enemy, thanks to his received pronunciation.

And you can enjoy it if you're English too, if you're into self-flagellation. 'The English do love their ostenatious shows of dowdiness. The apogee of stateliness if for a duke to be mistaken for his gardener. English generals regular affected the dress of their soldiers, like Montgomery, with his tank beret and sheepskin jacket... Being good at things while appearing completely hopeless is a joke which never ceases to amuse the English, they just love ragged billionaires, tongue-tied orators, engineers who are baffled by can openers...'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eladjouf on 30 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback
In the introduction of this book, Gill does make the point that he will not be providing any 'forensic evidence' or proof for any of the assertions he makes about the English, but rather that he just knows 'these things to be true' (written with pen firmly stuck in cheek!). So, if you can read this book with that comment in mind you will find it an enjoyable read.

He does use some rather broad-brush stereotypes to describe a trait that he has identified about the English, but there are some fairly accurate descriptions that pained this particular reader. Do I really just like gardening because it's the only place I can find to bury my prejudice and snobbery and does poisoning green (weeds) and feeding green (flowers) prove a deep-seated yearning for Fascist orderliness? Do I drink to unlock the cellar door to my dark side?

As has been said in other reviews, it really is worth buying this book just for the chapters on War memorials (you will never look at the Cenotaph again without thinking about his comments) and Political correctness (which he makes a very impressive defence of). In addition, his description of antique shops in the Cotswolds and the Englishman who took on the Germans at the cable car queue is very funny.

Gill is always surprising in his views and his writing style can be mildly irritating, but there is also humour in here as well as some very insightful comments about the current state of Englishness and for that I would recommend this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Simon on 17 July 2009
Format: Paperback
I loved this book when I started reading it - in places it's laugh out loud funny and the chapter on Memorials was as good as the review (that made me buy the book) suggested.
But I haven't finished it. It's the author's anger that seeps through the pages as you read and leaves you feeling sullied and disloyal. There's lots to be ashamed about in the English as a people, but what starts as a nodding acceptance of the authors clear observational talent ends as a growing defiance and defensiveness. This is not a nice book and the anger in the title is mainly Gill's.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Natania Rosenfed on 11 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
To indict this book for being subjective is beside the point; Gill never pretends to be other than subjective. That said, he is remarkably erudite, and the volume is full of interesting facts as well as opinions. I'm tempted to call Gill the Martin Amis of the travel essay, or the essay of cultural observation; his style is frequently over-the-top, even to the point of splenetic, but the guy is so intelligent you have to sit back and enjoy it. And he seems right on to me on so many things, including the barely contained anger that seems to pervade the people of this nation--and the fact that they have made repression into a fundamental character trait. As an American married to an Englishman, I have one other thing to thank him for: helping to explain my in-laws!
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