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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, if undemanding fun.
The notion of what defines the north, either physically or spiritually is one that has been endlessly debated for many years. It would be somewhat optimistic to expect Maconie's book to answer the question definitively, which is a good job because it doesn't. But, by his own admission he doesn't really try to.

Instead, what we have is this: a neat, funny...
Published on 23 Aug 2007 by ds

versus
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can be funny in parts but also long winded.
This was a book selected by our book group. I finished it and did enjoy most of it but parts of the book bored me and I was longing to move on. How long can you stay in Wigan?

There were some interesting sections which were informative but I did not look forward to getting home to read my book.

It was all very average.
Published on 5 Feb 2010 by V. Moderate


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly entertaining read, 25 July 2007
This review is from: Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North (Paperback)
A wonderfully evocative travelogue throughout Northern England, and laugh-out-loud funny to boot.Guaranteed to make any exiled Northerner homesick.
Maconie is a gifted writer, and gives no quarter to weak-minded stereotypes about the North.What a pity then, that he has so many prejudices of his own against Yorkshire,which he seems to think is populated entirely by bluff and self-important individuals, all of whom are male.
For this bit of blind prejudice, he loses a star.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why I'm proud to be a Northerner, 19 April 2007
By 
Bantam Dave (Bradford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North (Paperback)
A few years ago Charles Jennings wrote a book called 'Up North'. This was a deeply mean-spirited book in which Southerner Jennings basically rubbished all things North. I well rememember reading it because by the time I had finished the book was falling to pieces from being regularly thrown at a wall in disgust!

Stuart Maconies effort is much more to my liking, mainly because it is written by a Northerner who actually knows what he is talking about. Okay, both Maconie and myself are biased, but even so Pies and Prejudice is a much better read that I should imagine can be enjoyed by even the most died in in wool Southerner.

As Maconie states early on that this is not meant to be a comprehensive account of all towns in the North. Some major cities - Sheffield for example, are given only the briefest of mentions and some none at all. This, to me almost unbelievably, includes York, surely the Norths jewel in the crown. Also, a little too much is written about Manchester and Liverpool although as this is Maconies 'home patch' I can forgive him that.

There is the occasional factual error (Charlie Williams born in Bradford? Tetleys brewed in Doncaster?) but in a book containing as many enjoyable snippets of information as this book does, again this is forgivable.

What I most like about the book though is that although I have already been to almost all the places mentioned in the book after reading Maconies descriptions and stories I now want to visit them again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good not-too-demanding and humorous read..., 14 Mar 2008
By 
Cheshire Dave (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North (Paperback)
I read all the time for my job - so,at home, I don't read many books and just read magazines and comics. But I actually looked forward to this one every night - and that's very rare for me. With a title like that, I had to buy it. The other reviews are fair enough. I can't really see people from the South being too interested in a book about the North (and vice versa), but it's good-natured jibes all round, and with sudden surprising flashes of seriousness when The Troubles, The Moors Murders, and race riots, for example, are discussed. But, in general, it's a hotch-potch (or is that hot-pot?) of interesting facts, gentle and humorous intentionally biased opinions, and a few laugh-out-loud moments. Flags a little in places, as if it's a long magazine article stretched out to fill a book, but I have almost finished reading it now, and have enjoyed nearly every moment. On balance, a great, not-too-demanding read, but probably by Northerners for Northerners.
(I am writing from Cheshire - the bit that used to be in Lancashire - the book explains all that...)
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Caught In-between, 15 Mar 2007
By 
J. Grundy "Jim Grundy" (Hucknall, Nottinghamshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North (Paperback)
As I live in the East Midlands, I am one of those caught between stereo-types. To Southerners, well, we're in the North but we're not about to be accepted as true Northerners by the average Lancastrian or Yorkshireman (not to mention that neither are 'proper' Northerners according to Geordies or so it seems!). As such, people who live around here have a little insight into both camps as we're a minor melting pot. For example, one lad at my school had the proverbial ripped out of him when he referred to his midday meal as 'lunch' and not dinner as all right-thinking people do! Yes, some around here are confused too.

Personally speaking, as a son of a miner and a textile worker I regard myself as a dyed-in-the wool 'Northerner' in the kind of spirit that Stuart Maconie discusses at the end of his excellent book. But am doubtlessly wholly suspect due to the lack of a strong identifiable regional accent - we have one but I doubt many outside of this part of the country would recognise it. Alan Sillitoe when he wrote 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning' - rightly identified as a great film in this book - was conscious that the accents in the film were totally wrong but if they'd been accurate no-one would have understood a word!

Nevermind all that, this book is an extremely well-written tour around parts of the North of England. It had the effect of making me want to visit some of the places mentioned and revisit others. I last went to Durham 20 years ago and want to go back. The author's dead right when he says that if the city was in the South it would receive much, much more attention.

With that example alone, I think Mr. Maconie makes his point. There is a Southern if not 'bias' but perspective in much of our media. As he says at the outset, the BBC doesn't have 'South of England' correspondent. Nuff said.

Cheers, Stuart, I'll look up your other books.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Upper Crust!, 12 Feb 2008
By 
D. Wright (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North (Paperback)
This is an urbane, witty and clever book that explores "Northerness" means ... or rather what "Northern Englishness" means.

I found it fascinating but wished Maconie had hopped north of the border to juxtapose the view of Scots to "oop norf" with those "dan sarf". ( I did at times say "being patronised by the Londoncentric media ... try living in Scotland, pal!" while reading it.)

(I was studying in Glasgow a few years ago and I overheard a middle-class southern girl ask a friend "do THEY like dogs". I resisted the urge to butt in and say "only when there is an "r" in the month." To this girl everything north of Oxford is a suburb of Mordor.)

Maconie's thesis is simple :- regionalism is rife in the worlds of media, politics and business; this leads to a small-minded southern mind-set and a reactionary northern response.

Maconie's most accurate and deservedly cruel lunge is at the media's obsession with London and the Home Counties. He is also commendably and unfashionably unafraid to bring in social class into his discussion.
(Notice how "Q.I." is always at pains not to patronise the developing world but Stephen Fry can label Scots as drunken yobs and Northerners as provincial.)

Some may be dissapointed by its middlebrow muddle:- is this a funny serious book or a serious funny book ? But that is to overlook the book's strength that you learn a lot without feeling you are being lectured at.

It does have its flaws though, primarily a feel of a sense of resentment towards the South rather than a real anger at the North's neglect by Northerners. In addition, while I sung "Ding dong, the Witch is Dead" when Thatcher resigned, I think Maconie's left-wing political views are as carefully though out as and, as predictable, as a reactionary, right-wing retired stockbroker's from Surrey.( Oops, that was a regional stereotype.) Yes, Maconie savages Militant ruled Liverpool but, all too often, north of the Watford gap self-interested, self serving rogues are voted in precisely because they wear a red rosette just as blue rosette wearing clowns like Boris Johnson are in the south. Yes, the Thatcherite era did lead to a savage and deliberate decimation of the British working class but the left showed an unforgivable lack of vision and leadership that made them vulnerable to old "milksnatcher".

But Maconie isn't a sentimentalist:- the North isn't porttrayed as perfect ... just as a neglected part of the UK with its own charm.

But overall, ecky thump! It' s reet champion, ower kid.I'm off to walk my whippet.

(Sorry, lads & lasses!)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and informative, but could have been better, 7 Mar 2008
By 
M. Gordon (Southampton, England) - See all my reviews
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In all honesty, I wasn't looking forward to reading a book by Stuart Maconie, knowing him only from the abysmal "100 Embarrassing Clips From TV Hell" type programmes on Channel 4, in which "celebrities" I'd never heard of would make ill-informed comments about TV shows they were too young to remember.

I needn't have worried: Maconie comes across as intelligent, cultured, and passionate about his subject matter, namely the towns and cities of the north of England. The book is extremely funny in places, but it never comes across as glib, trivial, or patronising - it is packed full of interesting facts about the places Maconie visits.

However, as Maconie explains in his introduction, the book isn't comprehensive: many large towns and cities aren't even mentioned, with York being probably the most startling omission. The book does have a very strong Lancashire/Yorkshire bias - Maconie has relatively little to say about the North East of England (he admits it's "the bit of the north I don't really know"), though he does manage to do places like Newcastle and South Shields justice.

Another complaint is that the book seems to be aimed at a southern or more specifically a London-centric readership. This is evident from his use of London district names as metaphors and even as adjectives. He describes one Sunderland-based organisation as "Shoreditch-y" but few natives of Sunderland will understand what he means by that. Also, Newcastle isn't pronounced "Nyurcassle" if you're actually from there, any more than Londoners say "Lahndan" or Liverpudlians say "Liverpewel".

Maconie does contradict himself to a certain extent - he says "England doesn't have a south in the same way that it has a north" but then he goes on to show that it doesn't have a cohesive north either. People regard themselves as Lancastrians, Scouse, Geordies or whatever - it's only Southerners who tend to lump them all together into the "Northerner" bracket.

The book challenges lazy stereotypes, but falls back on them too, e.g. Geordies are incomprehensible (yeah, like a Geordie can understand a Yorkshireman, a Scouser, or a Cockney in full flow).

Overall, a good book and one that I greatly enjoyed reading, even with the flaws mentioned above. I just wish Maconie had spent a bit more time writing about the North East.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Characterisations and nicknames, 13 April 2007
By 
Helen Simpson (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North (Paperback)
A witty and interesting book which was more than just a search for 't'north' ...after all I don't really care exactly where it is...I just know I live there!!

The social history of some of our much loved northern towns and cities was indeed warmly told from the bands of Liverpool and Manchester to the shipyards on Wearside and plenty in between.

Maconie adds his own style of wry humour to his tour of the north and yes, he does have a bias towards the north, but doesn't really slag off the south...just made me chuckle at the differences. After all just because Sunderland folks think it's a heatwave at the same temperature southerners are "...togged up in car coats and parkas..." is more amusing observation than a flattering description. But then I'm from Yorkshire so prone to exaggeration! ;-)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, enjoyable and informative, 12 Aug 2008
Overall I enjoyed reading this book and as others have said it certainly has inspired me to visit some of the places described. I liked the author's writing style and most of all I found most of the historical detail interesting and educational. However after reading through relatively huge sections on Liverpool, Manchester and Wigan I was disappointed to see places like Sheffield glossed over very briefly - surely Sheffield has more to offer than the time he spent discussing the National Museum of Pop Music?
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A southerner responds ..., 4 Mar 2007
By 
G. Holter "Graham H" (East Sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North (Paperback)
Maconie is an accomplished and fluent writer and the book is an entertaining and illuminating love letter to the north. But his dislike, perhaps even contempt, for the south occasionally overshadows what is an otherwise very worthwhile account.

Is it not possible to love the north without hating the south? Maconie lambasts southerners and the London media for their preconceptions about the north, but as a southerner I don't recognise many of these attitudes. Sometimes it's just good-natured regional banter but I must admit I grew tired of turning a blind eye to all the southern stereotypes that Maconie uses to make his points. He seems to think we're all called Sebastian and Jocasta and eat polenta three times a day. I don't know why Maconie feels southerners like Brian Sewell are worth responding to, or the taxi driver he clashed with in London. Irritating they both may be, but they're hardly representative of the south in general. He also quotes north-disparaging books by southerners that I doubt more than a handful of people south of Watford have ever read, and perhaps even fewer in the north.

Occasionally it gets plain bizarre. Apparently Maconie walked over London's Millennium Bridge and "felt nowt, mate, because I'm northern", in contrast to the bridge in Gateshead that moved him. What exactly does that mean? It's a churlish and even childish statement that undermines some excellent descriptive writing elsewhere in the book.

Picking more holes (presumably it's a southern trait) I'd have to say that the book does feel like it was written in a hurry and it's let down at times by some factual inaccuracies and proofing errors.

But for all that, I really enjoyed it. If I was anti-northern I wouldn't have picked it up in the first place, but I'm genuinely interested in the country I live in and feel as connected with Cumbria and Yorkshire as I do with Cornwall or Norfolk. I learned a lot from it and I'd recommend it to anyone who is equally fascinated by modern Britain. Maconie's writing is as engaging as his radio style but I must admit I found the south-bashing a bit tiresome at times and as ill-informed as the northern prejudices he rails against.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reet Gradely!, 22 Nov 2010
By 
I really enjoyed this examination of Northerness. I've always like Maconie's radio and music journalism work and this didnt dissapoint me. Maconie knows the north (especially the North West) very well. It's a great mix of pop culture, social history, politics and Greggs the bakers.

As for the critical reviews on here:
Yes he does tar Southerners with the same brush but its obvious that this is a deliberate reflection of the common attitude displayed by the Home Counties based media. They don't like it up 'em do they?
He misses out some major places in the North( e.g. York) but you can't cover everywhere and when was the last time you read about life in Skelmersdale?
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Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North
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