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VINE VOICEon 29 January 2012
Henry Hemming is an excellent writer: his study of English eccentricity is intrically researched and keenly observed. Whilst referencing the past he is able to examine a number of diverse subjects such as a woman who runs a gnome sanctuary, The Marquis of Bath, a former Hell's Angel who has been proclaimed King Arthur and a man obsessed with baked beans amongst many others. Hemming's unique sense of humour buoys things along and he seems to revere and admire the various characters he meets without overtly taking the mickey too much.

I must confess that I didn't want to finish reading this book because I was enjoying it so much, especially the more modern/well known characters such as Sebastian Horsley, Dame Vivienne Westwood and unfortunately Pete Docherty. It's with huge admiration for Hemmings' foreberance in dealing with such a difficult character as Docherty, who, to be honest does seem to deserve the tabloids' opinion of him. Special mention must be made of the exquisite line drawings which evoke a great deal of insight into the various eccentrics he meets.

In conclusion: a fantastic book, I loved it - recommended to anyone who enjoys the stranger aspects of daily life.
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on 14 August 2012
I took 'In search of the English Eccentric' on holiday as light reading matter.Ha! I could not put it down. I found it absorbing and annoying at the same time, though not a light read as I expected. It was absorbing because Hemmings reveals in his writing,a weird and whacky world to which us 'usual' guys never seem to see, let alone, touch. I wanted to know more. it held me in that urge. It was annoying because from the outset, Hemmings shows a profound depth of understanding of this eccentric world [and the alternative of this world which inevitably must be mine],way beyond his years.When I discovered that Hemmings was a mere twenty seven when he penned 'In Search of' I was totally in awe. I both laughed and cried at this book. I learned a lot about another way of living, of the need for tolerant in those differences, as well as something about myself. It is a long time since a book has had such an effect on me. Excellent! Can't wait to read his other works - though now he is a little older, I might not be as impressed!
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on 8 March 2009
I found In Search of the English Eccentric in the travel section of my local bookstore, but it is far more than a travel book. In the context of travel writing, the author exoticises his native Britain led by a quest for eccentrics. The travel is also across time, reviving dandies dustied with age, in an effort to update the concept of the eccentric from its Victorian roots.

Unlike a travel book, however, this is not a list of people or places to see. The book is carefully structured around themes and introduces us to characters who fail to meet the definition of eccentric as well as to those who come out triumphant. Questioning the concept of eccentric leads Hemming into provocative terrain regarding the relationship between eccentricity, madness, perversion and creativity.

Creativity is clearly a theme close to the heart of the author, who is an artist of his own right. Each chapter is illustrated with etchings made by Hemming in the manner of a 19th century botanist. And the narrative is peppered with metaphor, creating unexpected images at every page turn. The book also reads like theatre in parts, full of carefully recorded dialogue between Hemming and his subjects.

In short, this is a playful book with an entertaining approach to serious and well researched questions about the relationship of individuals to society. I highly recommend it.
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on 2 February 2012
As someone who already has an interest in the eccentric among us, I thoroughly enjoyed this insightful and often humorous tale of a man in search of some of the UK's most intriguing characters.

What I like most is the writer's completely non-judgemental approach to the people he encounters and his genuine enthusiasm towards the subject area. The book also asks questions about what it means to be eccentric in the modern world and how the term has evolved over time.

A wonderful scattering of drawings throughout the book help to depict each character, making their presence ever more visceral and alive.

Highly recommended reading.
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on 2 October 2013
I can't say how much I enjoyed this book.

I felt that it was not only very thorough, covering an expanse of interesting characters, but it was both witty and engaging.

Frankly, I was a bit sad when I finished!

I have just ordered another book by Hemming and I look forward to starting it.
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on 22 October 2012
I foumd this book heavy going because its focus is on the author and his 'journey' rather than the elusive, attention-shunning eccentric. Better to read Edith Sitwell (or indeed any of the Sitwells' books) if you are interested in eccentricity.
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on 14 July 2008
Wow - this was such a fascinating book! It shook up my ideas about difference and marginality. It portrays how the eccentrics' lives develop a contemporary notion of eccentricity without loosing the dimensions of the people. From the weightlessness of remembering what it is like to be childlike to issues of a national identity, it charts a journey of theoretical development with a sense of adventure and fun. Almost above all, the writing opens out moments in vibrant and vivid ways and manages to be both wide-ranging in its historical reach and yet also specific and intimate.
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on 5 June 2015
An interesting book a lot of work went into this it was an enjoyable read
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on 14 August 2014
what a joy to read & a constant inspiration
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on 13 November 2014
Fun, enlightening and well written.
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