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Customer Review

40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, solidly researched, insightful, 1 May 2006
This review is from: Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (Paperback)
This book starts out with a dose of political correctness and a tendency to over-qualify everything, in the usual manner of academics. At this, I groaned. But the author seems to have realised the danger, and once past the introduction the writing is ceaselessly fascinating, amusing and clever.

The previous reviewer who claims that the book is not really based on scientific study is, I'm sure, wrong. A stunning amount of research clearly went into this, even if the standard of proof is not (and cannot be) something a physicist would regard as acceptable. This is no mere collection of anecdotes, but of series of conclusions derived from painstaking observation.

If the conclusions seem like clichés, it's because much of what has been observed about the English over the years is, in fact, true, and continues to be so even today - when some might have us believe that we've become so diverse that no rules apply any more, a notion which Kate Fox exposes as nonsense. The genius of this book is that it scratches beneath the surface of "ethnographic dazzle" - the noisy chaos and diversity which causes us to believe that there are no patterns to our behaviour - and lays out the hidden rules for our perusal and amusement.

This book really is funny. Every few pages I had to laugh out loud at one of Fox's witty observations. Most of all, however, it's thought-provoking. I have a special interest in understanding the English because I no longer live in England; the experience of grappling with another culture makes you look more closely at your own. Reading this book made me think that we all need to make a collective visit to the psychiatrist. Much of the stuff about class is frighteningly spot-on, I fear, as are the observations about our social ineptness. Any English people who read this will find themselves constantly checking their own personalities for the litany of wacky behavioural traits Fox describes, and finding it all too close for comfort. But it's by no means all negative; casting aside all of those unpatriotic academic inhibitions, the author finds much to praise in the English character.

Read it. You'll be glad you did.
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