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Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. A novel (Compass Books. no. C62.)

3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (1992)
  • ASIN: B0018HN8B2
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Product description

Gerald Middleton, eminent historian and scholar, is at war with his conscience. Separated from his sentimental Danish wife, mistrusted by his children, unable to satisfy his mistress Dollie, Gerald is torn between self-deception and the unhappy truth about his personal and professional life.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this edition of a novel I had read 25 years ago and always wanted to re-read. The purpose of my review is not to celebrate the story and exploration of family and relationships , but to criticise the extremely shoddy work that went into this particular Faber Finds imprint. On the one hand, I had been excited and grateful to learn that a long out-of-print book became available again, and published by Faber & Faber. However, whoever oversaw the actual type-setting and printing process did not do their homework: on almost every page, there are multiple typographical errors, such as speech marks the wrong way round and not around the utterances of the characters speaking, as well as a profusion of spelling mistakes and omissions of spaces between words. In an expensive edition, from a respectable publishing house, I think it reasonable to expect greater attention to detail and more rigorous editorial checks, because these faults hampered my enjoyment of a fine novel. When I first learned that Angus Wilson's catalogue was going to be reprinted I was excited. Now, however, I won't be looking to buy Faber's imprints of his other works for fear that those too will also be riddled with similar errors to those I found in Anglo-Saxon AttitudesAnglo-Saxon Attitudes
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Format: Paperback
An English friend involved in archeology introduced me to the concept of the essential importance of the provenance of an artifact in determining its significance. The artifact must be viewed within the context in which it was found, otherwise it is meaningless. The provenance of an idol, involving a sad practical joke, and deeper Oedipal emotions is the heart of Wilson's novel. This one joke reverberated throughout the English medievalist academic world for 50 years, and one reflects on the old aphorism that the quarrels in academia are so bitter because the stakes are often so trivial. Was it of any significance to anyone that a famous 7th Century bishop might have backslide into apostasy?

Perhaps the provenance of the idol is a useful metaphor for examining English society in the mid-50's. The significant cast of characters, drawn from a broad swath of that society, act out their fates based on their own location within the society. Yet there will always be some upward mobility, as well as some backsliding for the schemers. The relationships between men and women are universally sad, with a dominant driving force being "accommodation."

Wilson is an excellent writer, and it was a delight to read his historical slice of England, wry humor and all. I thought of the early days of the Internet, slow modem connections, the downloading of pictures, pixels at a time, first one rough pass, then another, finally the entire picture comes into sharper focus. Wilson writes in that fashion, a rough pass, a hint of something deeper, and then he returns over the events, and the picture deepens and intensifies.

Such novels are vital for the perspective they bring to the present, how some things truly are new, but mainly, much is repetition of the same human drama, with all its aspirations and flaws.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on April 24, 2008)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First, this is my review of the Kindle edition. It has been very well transcribed for Kindle: to all intents and purposes, there are no errors

I first read "Anglo Saxon Attitudes" when I was about eighteen. I've since re-read it at intervals of 5 years or so. So I must have read it about 25 times. Each reading gave me pleasure in the same way, and in a different way.

The book was written shortly after it was proved that Piltdown Man, discovered in 1912, was a fake -- a huge scandal of scientific fraud. The imaginary premise of the book is a fraud also committed in 1912: the placing of a pagan idol in the coffin of an Anglo Saxon bishop. The protagonist, Gerald Middleton, a young, promising, handsome, sensual and wealthy scholar of medieval history, has some grounds for suspecting the fraud, but for one reason or another doesn't do enough to get round to exposing it. So Middleton, whose life is supposed to be dedicated to the promotion of historical truth, by his cowardice or laziness has allowed a lie to be planted in the historical record.

Somehow this affects the whole of Middleton's life. Everything goes wrong for him in love, family and profession. He has not the courage to leave his appallingly superficial wife for the woman he truly loves, who gradually turns into a hopeless drunk. He is estranged from his dysfunctional children. By the age of 60 his brilliant promise has produced nothing. Instead of writing great historical work he just uses his private income to collect drawings. He sees his family once a year: at Christmas.

In case you think this sounds appallingly gloomy, take it from me that it isn't. Thats where the genius of the novel lies.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book because I'd seen the TV series perhaps 15-20 years ago and that was interesting - it had some powerful moments. The "Faber finds" edition however is so poor that I'm not sure I'll be able to bring myself to read it. It's admirable in principle to reprint editions that might not otherwise be available, but this one is mean. The cover curled as soon as I took it out of the packaging, and you have to prise the book open to make out the print that runs too close to the inside margins. The font is tiny and the paper rather transparent. I can't be the only one who enjoys the physical presence of a well bound & printed book; this one is so disappointing...
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