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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it - and I live in Surrey!
I happened to buy Stuart Maconie's excellent guide to the North - part Bill Brysonesque comic travel guide, part a genuinely heartfelt portrait of everything he loves about the area - just before going on an extensive driving tour for my work, incorporating many of the cities described. Not only was it an excellent companion on my travels, but I found out so much I didn't...
Published on 26 May 2007 by Dr. George L. Sik

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6 of 6 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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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it - and I live in Surrey!, 26 May 2007
By 
Dr. George L. Sik (Epsom, Surrey) - See all my reviews
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I happened to buy Stuart Maconie's excellent guide to the North - part Bill Brysonesque comic travel guide, part a genuinely heartfelt portrait of everything he loves about the area - just before going on an extensive driving tour for my work, incorporating many of the cities described. Not only was it an excellent companion on my travels, but I found out so much I didn't know, even though I have spent a great deal of time in the North over the years.

What is so engaging about Maconie's prose is that he is fully aware of the prejudices that exist about the North and about specific cities and nods to them jokily while leaving no one in any doubt that stereotypes and oversimplifications are just that.

His passion for music and history come out on almost every page but it is the humour that sells it - showing once again how a light touch can make some very serious social and political observations. I challenge anyone - Southerners included - not to enjoy this and learn from it.

Even when Maconie makes little mistakes (it's LOUIS Tussaud's in Blackpool and he seems to have merged two separate Viz characters into one) he's easily forgiven because he passes on such a wealth of fascinating and frequently laugh-out-loud material (a passing reference to how people mispronounce 'Clitheroe' being a case in point!)

I guarantee it'll change your perception of Wigan at the very least.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can be funny in parts but also long winded., 5 Feb 2010
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V. Moderate "sliightly bored" (Newcastle upon Tyne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pies and Prejudice: In search of the North (Paperback)
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pies for eyes!, 11 Jun 2007
Stuart Maconie is without doubt a funny writer, even if he does really milk it at times. There didn't seem to be anything really being said with this book, it isn't a social document which is totally fine, especially as the writer was quite open about this. It is a personal and fun narrative and when read that way is at times hilarious. Anybody who has taken a cursory glance out the window of a north bound train, or sat in a jam on the M1, is going to find the book funny and Maconie somewhat charming. Well worth a gander.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "Northerner's" Viewpoint, 13 Feb 2014
This review is from: Pies and Prejudice: In search of the North (Paperback)
In his book The English, Jeremy Paxman proposed that the north might be defined as anywhere above a line drawn from the Severn to the Trent. More specifically, Stuart Maconie suggests the north begins at Crewe station, beyond which point the geology becomes harder, the accents flatter and the climate wilder – whilst the surface of the M6 turns from tarmac to cobbles. Stuart is only joking about this latter bit, of course, but the book may help anyone living south of Crewe to discover that not everything north of here is merely flat caps and whippets.

Stuart's travelogue is an unashamedly romantic exercise, a ‘love letter to the north of my upbringing’ and one certainly needs strong reserves of romanticism to rhapsodise about the landscape between Bolton and Manchester, of which an earlier traveller, J. B. Priestley, observed: ‘the ugliness is so complete it is almost exhilarating. It challenges you to live there.’

In the book, Stuart Maconie is a sucker for an elaborate pun. His chapter about Wigan is entitled ‘Mills and Bhuna’; and when discussing his enthusiasm for Bury's legendary black pudding, he cannot pass up the opportunity to say: ‘ooh you are offal ... but I like you.’

Whether you are a northerner or a softy southerner – apologies to any members living south of the Peak District - this book, in its 338 pages, gives much intriguing information about northern history, architecture, people and places that I’m sure you never knew before. This alone makes it worth forking out the 10.99 purchase price (or borrowing it from the local library if you are a true northerner with deep pockets and short arms).
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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
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, if undemanding fun., 23 Aug 2007
By 
ds (Whitby, UK) - See all my reviews
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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 travelogue of sorts that manages to take snapshots of what (some) of the north is like. Being from Wigan, Maconie seems to concentrate his attentions on his own particular part of the north, though he does manage to branch out a little.

Others have commented that his prose can be a little rambling at times, but I don't find that much of a problem, feeling hat it's much more relaxed and chatty than it otherwise would have been. There are errors though, some major and these are less easy to forgive, others are more minor. Claiming in an extended passage about north-east football that Wilf Mannion played for Sunderland is, for a Middlesbrough boy like me, almost unforgivable.
A couple of more minor errors include that the NYMR that runs into Goathland is NOT a narrow gauge raliway. There are some others and they slightly spoil an otherwise good book, though we should perhaps castigate the editors rather than the author for failing to pick up some of this.

I'd certainly recommend it as fun holiday read or if you have a bit of time to pass on a journey. It's light, it's not too demanding and it's fun. And that, I think is the whole point.
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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
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warts and all look at the North, 7 Jun 2007
By 
A Cerbic (Tyneside, UK) - See all my reviews
I have just read this book and found it to be thoroughly enjoyable if a little too focussed on the North West as other reviewers have commented. But again, that is the author's old stamping ground so he can be forgiven and I didn't mind as I used to live there. It is an affectionate but not sentimental or patronising look at the North and its people through the eyes of an exile who has not forgotten where he comes from (or, Judas-style, ditched his accent). Unexpectedly, considering I am a Geordie, I particularly enjoyed the comments about southerners in the first chapter which to me were laugh out loud and I doubt I'd be offended by them if I were a southerner. I would recommend this book to any 30/40 something as it contains musical and social references pertaining to that age group. And what he says about Geordies is true: if you are brought up North of the Tyne, growing up, Lancashire does seem like the Midlands!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes you want to have your own northern adventure!, 19 May 2007
I loved this book, though I agree with P. G. Harris that it could have done with tighter editing. I didn't feel SM ran out of steam, but did find that a few times he'd make ref to something as if new to the reader, when he'd only mentioned it a page or two before... which is just a bit annoying.

But that's being picky: it is all-in-all a great read and SM's enthusiasm has made me want to go (back) and explore the north.

(Top tip: have a dictionary to hand when you read it 'cause SM does like showing off his extensive vocab!)
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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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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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Pies and Prejudice: In search of the North
Pies and Prejudice: In search of the North by Stuart Maconie (Paperback - 7 Feb 2008)
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