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on 9 June 2012
The idea of this book really interested me. I'd always wondered what made England look or feel different to other countries, even just over the channel. And the chapter headings seemed a logical structure to look at this. But I kept having to re-read the chapters to try and get to the point. So for example, it's really interesting to understand how laws around 'enclosure' make our fields look the way they do but I still don't really know why that is. Clearly the author knows a lot, but as he rattles through his points and his opinions (which I didn't always agree with as an Englishman) it doesn't stop long enough to set out exactly why things are the way they are. Maybe some of these things are too complicated to explain succinctly but I found that I could fill in some of the gaps by looking at other books and Wikipedia, so I suspect it could have done with sharpening up.

All in all, I'd have preferred bigger picture, and less breezy, journalistic opinion.
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on 7 August 2014
I found this book fascinating, setting out in an easily accessible way the key factors which created England as we know it today.

Geology, land ownership, housing, hedgerows, roadways and railways....all of these and more impact on England as we see it today.

True, there is more about London, Leicestershire and the Home Counties. But to talk about all the local examples would take hundreds of volumes.

As it is in the 300 or so pages I thought that this is a good and thought provoking read, leading me to want to learn more.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 December 2012
This is a very gentle history of England and the English. Do not look here for rough edges, thoughtful criticism and review. Here you find an England of rose flanked doors, respectful tolerance and shy introspection.

The basic (and probably legitimate) premise of this book is that the physical nature of land, nature and weather formed the idiosyncratic character of the English. So, England made the English rather than the other way around.

Well, that's a good idea - but how long has England and the English existed? And is what the author identifies as "English" any more than the product of Victorian success and 20th Centaury decline? And is a Cornish Englishman the same as a Cumbrian? And do Cumbrians really exist, or are they ghosts of Cumberland and Westmoreland? I doubt that "English" is enough of a fixed entity to be able to pin down the factors that make them so to any one time, place or environmental factor.

I don't think you can have a book that openly admits that the geology of England is more varied than almost anywhere else on Earth, but still maintain that it is responsible in part for some overarching Englishness. Clearly England's geology has had (and still has) a profound impact on the economy of the country - but the dead coal villages of NE Somerset and Northumbria are really very, very different despite clear (but often unacknowledged) similarities.

Now, this book is interesting to read - even if I did want to argue with the author on many occasions - but some things really need to be tightened up a bit. "Most of us living in the south of England share DNA with pure blood Celts" - which would be of great interest if anybody could agree who the Celts were, and even if they actually even existed as a distinct people. "Bath ..... the only naturally occurring hot springs in England" - really? There are hot springs in nearby Bristol. I could go on - but I think I have made my point.

But in the end I think it was the circularity of some of the arguments put forward in this book that I found most hard to cope with. A love of ancient ruins is (apparently) a marker of Englishness because the English countryside has lots of them. So, where does this start? They are there because they are valued, or did they become valued because they were there?

So, this seems to a flawed, maybe inaccurate book, which nonetheless does try to look at the now contested ground of Englishness.

I would suggest you try to read a few chapters before you press purchase.
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on 31 January 2014
Absolute waste of time and money this book tells you nothing you already knew from a writer that just makes things up- totally boring !!! Harry mount should pay you to read this
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on 31 January 2014
Blah blah blah.....tell me something I didn't know. Do not waste your time or money.Worst book I've ever seen.Avoid at all costs.
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on 31 January 2014
Well there's a couple of days of my life I won't get back...

I've found Mr Mount's articles in the media are extremely inaccurate and cliched and this book was no different. Full of inaccuracies, lazy stereotypes and to be frank, pretty damn boring.

Would have given zero stars if option was available.

One word of advise 'Don't'
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on 26 August 2014
A great book, jam packed with interesting info. In fact I want to read it again to pick up on all the bits I missed or have forgotten!
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on 30 January 2014
As others have noted, this book is similar to listening to a rambling bore chuck facts at you without any sense of analysis to show how they tie together to answer the proposition held within the title. It's heavily London-centric and the North is mentioned predominantly to support lazy stereotypes such as Newcastle for example being mentioned as a place for semi-naked drunkness with very little credit given to it's industrial and cultural achievements in the last few centuries.
The fact the blurb on the front that says how wonderful this book is comes from the same paper the author has worked for tells you all you need to know.
This tome is just about fit to be the sort of thing you keep in the bathroom for dipping into when you have nothing else to hand.
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on 1 February 2014
Thankfully a passenger left a copy on the back seat.
Awful, possibly the worse book I've read this decade.
I'll keep it in the cab incase I get caught short near 62 Caversham Rd NW5.
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on 27 August 2014
In this book, Harry Mount explains how England and the English people have evolved over time in to what we know today. It is packed full of interesting facts and observations however some things in the book are opinion based so make sure that you do not mistake an opinion for fact!
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