Customer Reviews


23 Reviews
5 star:
 (8)
4 star:
 (8)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:
 (3)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kingdom by the Sea
I have to say I'm surprised by some of the customer reviews on this book. Could it be perhaps they hadn't read a Paul Theroux book before and didn't know what to expect? UK fans of Theroux's misanthropic, razor-sharp observations should have no qualms about the author turning his sights on Britain. Yes, 'The Kingdom by the Sea' is full of monstrous characateurs and Philip...
Published on 11 Oct 2007 by Demob Happy

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Potboiler
I rather rate Theroux as a travel writer but this tome struck me as a rather cynical jaunt around various parts of the coastline where he attempted to find the worst in people. Travel writing has to feel authentic - this didn't and often I was left feeling that the author was overegging his jaundiced view of the human race. As a fellow misanthropist I felt he didn't need...
Published 13 months ago by rayc


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kingdom by the Sea, 11 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain (Paperback)
I have to say I'm surprised by some of the customer reviews on this book. Could it be perhaps they hadn't read a Paul Theroux book before and didn't know what to expect? UK fans of Theroux's misanthropic, razor-sharp observations should have no qualms about the author turning his sights on Britain. Yes, 'The Kingdom by the Sea' is full of monstrous characateurs and Philip Larkin-esque mockery but, more importantly, brilliant observational and descriptive writing . Theroux manages (just) to make the rather relentless and tedious exercise of circumnavigating the British coast contstantly engaging and funny. As with (the also often misinterpreted) Larkin there is empathy beneath the cynicism. Theroux has a good eye for character and, for an American, a good ear for Britain's regional vernacular.

If you want travel writing that idealises its destinations then this is clearly not for you. If you want something balanced and objective this is also a poor bet. Paul Theroux's books don't pretend to be such things, although he makes some lofty claims about hoping to understand the British people and culture in the introduction. If you are familiar with his writing you will know that his books say just as much about the author than about his subjects; the writer Graham Greene described as having 'a chip of ice' in his heart. Theroux can be grumpy and brutal, but never less than engaging. Some of the reviewers make it sound like this book has wounded their national pride. I would be surprised if they don't at least recognize the Britain portrayed in these pages. He captures the national mood at a very definitive time: high unemployment and class conflict, the Falklands, British Rail, skin heads and mods. What is most striking about this novel is how much things in many ways have changed in the 15 years since then, and also how much has not.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe selective, but not inaccurate, 18 Mar 2008
By 
captain cuttle (Vancouver, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain (Paperback)
Oh for the ability to see ourselves as others see us!

Kingdom by the Sea seems to have upset many readers. Although, more than just about any other race on the planet, the English are whip-sharp when it comes to poking fun at themselves, like most of us they don't want an outsider doing it for them.

Not that Theroux is an outsider by any means. He lived in England for 11 years and married an Englishwoman. So this book doesn't describe the initial impressions of some passer-by. It's an informed, if narrowly-focused, description of parts of the UK and the people who live there, by somebody who has developed a keen ear for the language and a sharp eye for the quirks that make Britain unique. In a more recent travel book, Pillars of Hercules, Theroux recalls this earlier work as follows: "Prejudices in Gibraltar were quite similar to those I had encountered in English seaside resorts, an enjoyable mixture of bluster and wrong-headedness, the Little Englander in full spate." It's that Little Englander who bears the brunt of Theroux's humour, the same person who provided so much material for Monty Python, the same person ridiculed in the film "Shirley Valentine".

It's hard to dispute the accuracy of Theroux's descriptions of coastal Britain twenty years ago, if not today. Lines of cars on the prom gazing seaward; scuzzy holiday camps; criminally-overpriced and substandard accommodation; yobos on public transit swearing in loud voices while the other passengers pretend they're not there; cozy, picturesque coves and garish amusement arcades; ubiquitous "shallies", their occupants glued to evening TV. Of course, this is a selective snapshot taken at a particular time (Britain was at war with the Falklands) but no less incisive for that reason. And while Theroux is not slow to adopt a gently mocking style with many of the people he meets, he is ready to admire or sympathize with others. His description of the people of Cape Wrath is particularly touching.

Those familiar with his writings will find the style familiar. Whether in Africa, Australia, the Pacific or his own America, he can be acerbic and as wrongheaded as his Little Englanders. He has no intention of reinforcing anybody's view of any country he visits. He takes his own angle and, right or wrong, he's consistent. Bouquets and brickbats are handed around without regard to race, sex or social standing. As he quotes on one book: "No one has ever described the place where I have just arrived."

I lived in England for 26 years and traveled extensively through the UK apart from Ireland. Kingdom by the Sea is as realistic an overview of 1980's Britain as you're likely to read, and a superb counter-balance to many of the long-established travel brochure images.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the wait?, 4 Jan 2010
This review is from: The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain (Paperback)
I've waited a few years to read this book, after vicariously joining Theroux in China, India, Oceania, the USA, South America, Russia & all points west. I knew he'd written this some time ago but was strangely resistant to reading it until I accompanied him to more exotic & interesting (you'd think) locations, & then I forgot about it until noticing it in Waterstone's recently. If I'd read it 10-15 years ago, I wouldn't have had half as much experience of the places he visits in this book, so it was quite satisying to not only get his take on places & towns I know but compare & contrast it to my own. We're not that far apart on most things.

Although written nearly 30 years ago, with the Falklands War as both backdrop & common interest point, & featuring the odd quizzical inaccuracy (Wales isn't IN England, Paul), the book has dated quite well, in my opinion, especially with regards to that unique British (one might say mainly 'English') fascination with trips away to the seaside.

As always, it's his encounters with the residents of the land he lived in for a decade but never explored which tend to make for his most satisfying, funny & incisive points of view. Theroux gives playful sobriquets to many of those he meets along the way while at the same time being occasionally critical of what he seems to see as generalistic national personality traits, & he's not averse to letting us know if he thinks this place a 'dump' or that place 'dead'. Yet this is what has always made Theroux's writing, indeed his very objectives of travelling, so attractive to me - his need to get to the 'soul' or 'core' of a people, to understand what makes them tick & what doesn't, to look at how landscape influences societies & vice versa.

In that respect, & with the book's coastal slant in mind, 'The Kingdom By The Sea' not only mirrors many of my own experiences in travelling round the UK coastline, it offers not-so-tepid perceptions on various areas which make me want to not only visit but stay awhile. Theroux doesn't do guide books, but he writes books which you wish more guide books were like.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Potboiler, 23 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I rather rate Theroux as a travel writer but this tome struck me as a rather cynical jaunt around various parts of the coastline where he attempted to find the worst in people. Travel writing has to feel authentic - this didn't and often I was left feeling that the author was overegging his jaundiced view of the human race. As a fellow misanthropist I felt he didn't need to do this.
But there we are: Theroux fans will always buy the next Theroux book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing tour of the British coast during the Falkland War, 20 April 2010
By 
M. A. Krul (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain (Paperback)
The acclaimed travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux lived in England for a long time, and yet until the very end of his stay there he had not written a travel book about it. In "The Kingdom by the Sea", he rectifies this situation by taking a trip by train and foot along the entirety of the British coast. Starting out from London, he travels southeast, follows the coast to Cornwall, then goes up via Devon to Wales and Scotland, crosses to Northern Ireland, and finally returns to do the eastern half. Since the trip was undertaken in 1982, it is a Britain in a different state than the one of today, although not too different. The Falkland War, the policies of Lady Thatcher and the resulting mass unemployment, the sense of poverty and decline, these are all the decor for Theroux's undertaking. The book also gives a perspective of a Britain that is past in a more practical way: he travels often by branch lines that have since been abolished, and there is definitely a sense of impending doom about the formerly excellent British Rail system noticable in this work.

Not that one would necessarily notice much of it - most people Theroux talks to say very little of interest at all, and the main interpretation and narration has to be done by Theroux himself, which is a contrast with most of his works. As a result, how interesting a part of the book is depends mainly on what section of the route he is travelling. The first part, where he 'does' the southeast and south of England, is rather boring; but as soon as he gets into Wales, the book picks up pace and variety, and becomes as entertainingly readable as most of Theroux's works. His usual chagrin is rather mellow in this work, and he is not nearly as vicious towards the UK as one might expect. The sections on Northern Ireland are particularly vivid and give a good indication of the ridiculous aspects of the Troubles in their effect (or lack thereof) on daily life.

Overall, it is a good travel book and a light read, giving a curious stranger's insight into the Britain of the Thatcher years.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A memorable Journey, 15 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain (Paperback)
Paul Theroux's travels are always fascinating reading. His observations are precise and his descriptions evocative. He is able to make the everyday seem interesting and to bring the people he meets to life, making us wonder how he manages to find so many interesting people.

In this journey, he travels around the coat of Britain visiting coastal resorts, quaint seaside towns and staying in guest houses and bed and breakfasts. He captures the tawdry cheapness that characterised such resorts and describes a visit to Butlins in a tone of horror and bemusement.

Theroux describes the tensions of his visit to Northern Island, the beauty of the Scottish Coast and his subsequent horror at Aberdeen with cutting clarity. Unlike other travel writers for whom the journey is a stunt to provide entertainment, Theroux is interested in all aspects of travelling and inspires the curiositty of his readers.

The book was written in the early 1980s. How many of the rail lines he travelled on still exist? What has happened to the places he visited and the people he met? The book evokes the spirit of Britain twenty years ago and makes us wonder about what changes have taken place.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern Defoe, 3 Nov 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain (Paperback)
Having lived across the UK (Lanarkshire, Kent, Hampshire, Edinburgh, East Lothian and Liverpool) I was entranced by Theroux's insight into a people and its collective personality.
It is, for example, very easy to go to Liverpool and spend a couple of days ticking off and confirming fashionable stereotypes. The Liverpool Theroux writes of is just the Liverpool I now know well and has taken me four years to discover what he saw in a matter of days. This is not the Liverpool of 'Bread', or indeed the waterfront and tourist museums and galleries, this is the essence of the streets, and people. Readers who enjoy being justified in their prejudices should avoid this book.Theroux looks a each place he visits with intelligent and filter-free eyes.
The humour in this book is far darker, funnier and deeper than the later Bill Bryson 'Notes from Small Island' it is naively compared to.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 30 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain (Paperback)
Not sure who I bought this for.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars great bit of history!, 11 Nov 2013
By 
Andrew Marriott "Andy" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain (Paperback)
Theroux is travelling around Britain's coastline in 1981 when the Falklands War broke out. He is walking and taking trains and meeting people along the way, staying in guest houses that were and in some cases may still be, quintessentially 'English seaside'. His writing style is easy and not overly laden with seeking deep meaning; instead he captures vignettes of what it is/was like to be English in the early 80's, with the older generation still inextricably linked to the 'old days', when people seemed much older in their ways than they do now. Sitting in your car overlooking the sea eating sandwiches and reading the paper after driving for hours to be by the seaside. This is a slice of history about a slice of British life that stands the test of time and is worth reading, not as a guide to travelling around Britain yourself, for surely most of what Theroux saw at the time has changed, but to remind yourself how far you may have come on the journey yourself.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars the kingdom by the sea, 25 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain (Paperback)
A good read but not a patch on Bill Brysons book on GB a bad picture of the British nature where Bill captures the humour, good to travel the British Isles but wanted to know more of the places he visited. Tried to pack too much in a small book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain
7.69
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews