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3.8 out of 5 stars150
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 11 June 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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on 1 August 2015
I really wanted to like this book better than I did. Reading it in 2015 it seems very dated and too dominated by Stuart Maconie's own long held prejudices, or maybe I just can't forgive him for not liking tripe.
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on 26 May 2007
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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VINE VOICEon 23 August 2007
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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on 9 October 2008
For the most part, this book is entertaining and witty. Maconie's enthusiam for his subject is contagious and the stuff you are learning is genuinely interesting. Then he stops writing about Lancashire and starts on Yorkshire.

I can't help but think that this book would have been better if Maconie had stuck to what he knows, ie: the west side of the Pennines. Quite how, for example, he can make various claims about 'professional Yorkshiremen' (a dying breed anyway) and deny the existence of the Lancastrian equivalent is an unforgivable oversight that kind of gives away where Maconie's loyalties lie. They are not called 'professional Lancastrians' as such, but how many 'professional Scousers' and 'professional Mancs' could we name? Is Stuart Maconie's beloved Peter Kay not a great example of a professional Lancastrian? There's nothing wrong with that, and while such matters don't ruin the book, there is a real difference in Pies and Prejudice between the writing about Cheshire and Lancashire and the writing about the rest of 'the North'.

That, and a few errors that half-decent any sub would have picked up, aside, the book largely does what it sets out to do: entertain. Southerners that aren't as touchy as this reviewer will probably enjoy it all the more too.
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on 7 June 2007
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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on 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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on 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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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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on 29 August 2013
This is the third time I've bought this brilliant book. I keep lending it to people and not getting it back! Finally bought it on Kindle so I can't lose it again. Well worth re-reading though, great inform places and lots of interesting by-talk on rock music as well. Love it- and I'm a southerner!
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