This is an interesting, charming little book which when I first picked it up, I must admit I thought first and foremost that it was going to be a pleasant but sketchy travelogue covering all that is twee and homely about the English village.
I was of course quite wrong. This small but perfectly formed book is far from that. Martin Wainwright is the Northern Editor of The Guardian and although maintaining an overall gentile atmosphere of appreciation for the `traditional' English village in all its forms, he does it warts and all and gives well researched historical backgrounds to the various aspects of village life and form. This ensures the book doesn't shy away from the reality of those developments and their after-effects over the centuries, thus avoiding the book becoming too `chocolate box.'
He therefore achieves a very balanced book that may at times veer into the over-sentimental but, considering the subject matter, that's quite excusable considering the idealised place the village has in not just the English, but the British and the English speaking world's psyche. It's minimally, beautifully illustrated with black and white pen and ink sketches as the author tackles individual elements of the English village- the pub, the big house, the cottage, the mill, the church etc.- succinctly but not with any lack of detail and, importantly, relevant, social and political observations.
He finishes it off with a chapter that charts the future of the English village which is thought-provoking and essential, rounding off this book perfectly.
`The English Village- History and Traditions' gives a snappy armchair tour of that most sentimentalised of British social and urban forms whilst maintaining an easy to read, even `cosy' air befitting of the subject, without being mawkish. A fine line to walk and Wainwright pulls it off very well indeed. Give it a read.