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3.4 out of 5 stars38
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 1 September 2009
I bought, and read this book because I heard it praised on a radio programme. It turned out to be a very patchy read with some excellent moments set among boring half hours. Much of it reads as though a journalist has broken free from an editor and is taking his chance to show off his extensive vocabulary. Streams of long adjectives precede the nouns. Triplicate nouns are used to show that Mr. Gill can afford a thesaurus and is not afraid to use it. The book badly needs an editor to cut it down to size.

Occasionally he can be very funny. But when he is being witty (he tells us he is far too lofty for jokes) he seems to sneer at his countrymen. He condemns their snobbery, but indulges in snobbery himself. He slates their narrow emotional range, but shows little variation in emotion himself. He invites us to laugh at their prejudices, but his book show he is far from being an open-minded man. It's a book of bile and spite.

Mr. Gill has viewed the English nation and found it to be a mirror for his mood. He sees the English as an angry bunch. This is an excuse for him to exhibit his anger, and he is a very angry man. The book is a talented sixth former's transcription of a spoilt toddler's tantrum. If you find anger funny, by all means buy it. If you want to understand the English go for Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into the English Mind, a far better, more thoughtful book by Julian Baggini.
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on 30 June 2014
In the introduction of this book, Gill does make the point that he will not be providing any 'forensic evidence' or proof for any of the assertions he makes about the English, but rather that he just knows 'these things to be true' (written with pen firmly stuck in cheek!). So, if you can read this book with that comment in mind you will find it an enjoyable read.

He does use some rather broad-brush stereotypes to describe a trait that he has identified about the English, but there are some fairly accurate descriptions that pained this particular reader. Do I really just like gardening because it's the only place I can find to bury my prejudice and snobbery and does poisoning green (weeds) and feeding green (flowers) prove a deep-seated yearning for Fascist orderliness? Do I drink to unlock the cellar door to my dark side?

As has been said in other reviews, it really is worth buying this book just for the chapters on War memorials (you will never look at the Cenotaph again without thinking about his comments) and Political correctness (which he makes a very impressive defence of). In addition, his description of antique shops in the Cotswolds and the Englishman who took on the Germans at the cable car queue is very funny.

Gill is always surprising in his views and his writing style can be mildly irritating, but there is also humour in here as well as some very insightful comments about the current state of Englishness and for that I would recommend this book.
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on 20 February 2013
I really enjoy A.A. Gill's restaurant reviews in The Sunday Times, which is why I picked up the book... a big disappointment.

An idea that might have made a provocative Sunday supplement article feels thin and flimsy when stretched out to book length, and his archly superior, flippant prose becomes wearisome rather than amusing after a few chapters. The book makes a series of lazy generalisations about 'The English' as a race, but seems entirely specious, as each chapter seems to be about things that make Gill himself angry, (even though, as he takes pains to point out, he's not even 'English' - whatever that means).

It's rather a shame, but in A.A. Gill's case, the ability to write a piquant review /occasional article simply doesn't translate into an enlightening or even very entertaining book.
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on 11 March 2007
To indict this book for being subjective is beside the point; Gill never pretends to be other than subjective. That said, he is remarkably erudite, and the volume is full of interesting facts as well as opinions. I'm tempted to call Gill the Martin Amis of the travel essay, or the essay of cultural observation; his style is frequently over-the-top, even to the point of splenetic, but the guy is so intelligent you have to sit back and enjoy it. And he seems right on to me on so many things, including the barely contained anger that seems to pervade the people of this nation--and the fact that they have made repression into a fundamental character trait. As an American married to an Englishman, I have one other thing to thank him for: helping to explain my in-laws!
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on 17 July 2009
I loved this book when I started reading it - in places it's laugh out loud funny and the chapter on Memorials was as good as the review (that made me buy the book) suggested.
But I haven't finished it. It's the author's anger that seeps through the pages as you read and leaves you feeling sullied and disloyal. There's lots to be ashamed about in the English as a people, but what starts as a nodding acceptance of the authors clear observational talent ends as a growing defiance and defensiveness. This is not a nice book and the anger in the title is mainly Gill's.
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on 15 September 2010
If you like über-cynical prose laden with ludicrous sneering generalisations and written by an author with a suffocating superiority complex, then this is the book for you.
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on 18 July 2009
A.A. Gill, best known as a food writer who has courted controversy with outspoken published views of the Welsh amongst others in the past , here deconstructs various aspects of the English psyche via a collection of essays(including class, drink, voice, gardens and our attitude to the countryside via a piece on the Cotswolds).

His thesis that the most characteristic aspect of the English is their collective and individual anger is on the whole cleverly developed. Speaking as an Englishman with Scots and Welsh ancestry who has for many years been aware of many of the tensions and inconsistencies described here I welcome Gill's frankness and can identify with many of his points.

Although the quality of the writing is inconsistent, the best bits are certainly worth waiting for.
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on 29 May 2011
A.A Gill has often appeared on BBC television as a participant in the amusing programme GRUMPY OLD MEN. In this book he raises his brand of vicious, vituperative , highly articulate, brilliantly witty and extremely intelligent prose to a new degree of effectiveness. His vocabulary is one of inventive richness (have a dictioary within reach !) and his powers of pschychological observation are splendid.
The book makes very uncomfortable reading for his English public but it is a hugely enjoyable experience . I often got mad at him and I often cringed but admit to having had a considerable amount of
masochistic pleasure .....
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on 7 November 2015
This is a real plum pudding of a book with more adjectives and adverbs in the first ten pages than in ten volumes of Lord of the Rings. His articles in the Sunday Times can be both informative and entertaining but have the rescuing feature of being relatively short. For a book the unrelenting acid can be amusing but its unrelenting nature becomes very wearing. I only persevered to page 179 because it was all I had on the flight home. By the time I got home I was happy to give it to a charity shop.
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on 10 June 2016
You'll enjoy this, and all his other books more if you haven't watched him on television. Because after listening to his thin reedy voice, and the inherent unpleasantness about him, the bubble well and truly bursts. On paper he can be viciously funny, and his travel writing is brilliant, but on television, and during his filmed lectures, he reveals himself to be pretty much everything he says he despises - a pompous, smug, know it all, and a bit of a pain in the arse. But having said that his chapter on Humor, is ruthlessly accurate, and the one on Memorials very touching. So to be fair, his ruthless eye is often hilariously, right on target, but often way off. It's just Adrian himself, off the page, who is seriously difficult to like.
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