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England In Particular: A celebration of the commonplace, the local, the vernacular and the distinctive. Hardcover – 22 May 2006
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It should be at every curious Englishman's bedside. (Alan Titchmarsh)
This book is a joy. (Monty Don)
A living portrait of England here and now, with all the narrative and mystery of the past attached ... The book is gracefully written, phenomenally knowledgeable, and simply exhilarating, speaking as it does of the extraordinary things that are all around us, if we are only prepared to open our eyes to them. (Fay Weldon)
As vital as it is joyous, and as timely as it is inspired ... It should join Shakespeare and the Bible as a "must have" on any English man or woman's desert island. (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
An entrancing green alphabet ..."The land is our most elaborate storyboard," say Sue Clifford and Angela King as they demonstrate this truth in seemingly countless small essays, each one a brief masterpiece of combined natural and social history ... this is a book for all English seasons and for every English mile (Ronald Blythe)
This wise and witty and broad-shouldered celebration (it ranges from accents and airfields to wrestling and zigzags) is the triumphant fruition of their work with Common Ground. (Richard Mabey)
A magical celebration of English diversity and a much-needed wake-up call as we sleepwalk further into the dreary global monoculture. (Zac Goldsmith)
Angela King and Sue Clifford have been pursuing this quarry for more than 30 years and it would be difficult to imagine anyone encompassing more of England between two covers. (Adam Nicolson Evening Standard)
This is one of the most handsome books I've come across in a long while. (Paul Kingsnorth Independent)
ENGLAND IN PARTICULAR does everything that the ideal grandmother would, with equal charm and perhaps an even greater depth of accuracy and information. It should become part of every well-organised family. (Clive Aslet)
A magnificent, unique and ground-breaking book about English local distinctiveness, that will appeal to devotees of Simon Jenkins and Flora Britannica.
'It should be at every curious Englishman's bedside.' - Alan Titchmarsh
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Everything, then, about this book is lovely - from the erudition and quality of the writing and the clarity of the printed impression, all the way through to the binding and texture of the paper. It's the sort of wonderful creation that reminds us how traditional books not only deserve to persist in this modern digital age of ours, but flourish; and if I had to sum it up in one word (and one word only), it would be this:
Each entry has several hundred words written in a straightforward style that is a pleasure to read. There is a slight downside though because all the entries end with 'See also' followed by a few related subjects. A trap for the unwary because you'll end up, like I did, meandering through these taking in all kinds of fascinating odds and ends and suddenly another hour has gone.
The authors have wisely avoided using photos with the text. Instead the work of several illustrators has been used to liven up the pages. From David Gentleman's pen and ink and Clifford Harper's woodcut style to the simple, deft line and wash technique of James Sillavan, the hundreds of pictures give just the right feel to the pages.
The Contents list all the entries but nicely there is huge Index, amazingly twenty-seven pages long and a very full bibliography for each entry (I mentioned Manhole covers above: five books are listed).
None of the entries deal with anything so vulgar as commerce but if you are curious about how Bovril, Marks & Spencer, British Rail and plenty of others have contributed to the English character have a look at two books by Peter Ashley: Unmitigated England: A Country Lost and Found and More From Unmitigated England or English Difference, The. All three books are strongly visual and throw up all the quirky and enduring traits of the English.
I have a few caveats. There is, of course, some unevenness as one would expect in a compendium of this nature - there is a perceptible slant towards public art projects funded by the Common Ground charity to which the authors belong, which will date it in a few years - and some frustration in the amputated nature of coverage of issues straddling a border, inevitable in a work dealing with England rather than Great Britain. (Treatment of the sea-mist of the east coast really needs to mention dialect names from north of the border as well, for instance, just as discussion of estuaries is a little strange when three of the largest - Severn, Solway and Dee - are only half in England.) Some clearly important subjects, too, such as parish churches or railways, are clearly too large to discuss in the necessary detail in a one volume encyclopedia of this nature, but are still represented - presumably for completeness' sake - in an inevitably frustrating and superficial fashion. These, however, are minor niggles. Plunge in and immerse yourself in a world of Accrington Bloods and Hooden Horses.
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