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The most accurate book(s) about Britain
on 16 February 2006
This is really about both collections (1 and 2) of How to be British you'll probably find this review duplicated under the other title.
If there's one book I could give to foreigners that portrays Britain it would be these two, and as someone who's interested in, and has struggled with, the problem of "what does it mean to be British?" I think these two books come closest to an answer.
Abroad, there would be no humourous books like these. The space they occupy (more and more each year at Christmas) would be taken up with philosophy but I've begun to think that this is the best way to analyse what the British are about.
I love the pointed observation of Peter Legon's writing and the dry humour and I love the detail in Martyn Ford's illustrations. Just as with the writing I feel a real enthusiasm on his part to get all the detail he's noticed into the pictures.
These books feel British as, to me, the pictures are delightfully cluttered and embody the idea of a garden shed full of all sorts of odds and ends, as well as bringing to mind such words as 'rummaging', 'kerfuffle', 'palaver', 'pottering'.
And I think it's a great achievement to cover all of Britain AND both young and old, and not just a narrow short lived phenomenon (such as Chavs).
I would recommend that you buy both these books and take them abroad with you, along with your phrasebook.