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VINE VOICEon 11 November 2016
This had been chosen as my latest bookclub challenge and, having read his book The Peoples Songs recently, I was looking forward to it.
The first few paragraphs were intriguing, giving a description of the moments when the author realises that he has become a southerner. There is, however, a fairly lengthy buildup to get to the North - in the Prologue the author explains why he has written the book and in the first chapter he talks about the South, dismissing many of the towns based on his experience which could turn off some readers and stop them going any further. In the next chapter he starts to muse about where the North actually starts and so the book begins properly.
The book was first published in 2007 and much has happened since then which makes the narrative feel very out of date at times - for example he comments that libraries are holding their own but after the economic slow down in 2008 and subsequent cuts this is not necessarily true now. Other examples include various references to Jimmy Saville, Fred Talbot and Stuart Hall.
As any good travel book should be this is packed with interesting facts - did you know that the first Ikea was in Warrington? There are also many experiences that are easy to relate to - the author walks through the Cultural Area in Warrington without realising it, something I did recently in Northampton.
There are many light, humorous sections alongside some more thought provoking material - consider Boris Johnson's article about Liverpudlians, expressing his view that they see themselves as victims. I found that the Liverpool section made me smile - "It's hard to hear the ferry related information above the mournful howling of the wind" and "two cathedrals, a Protestant one designed by a Catholic and a Catholic one designed by a Protestant".
Nostalgia fills every page and the author is very proud of his roots which is lovely to read.
Some things sit uncomfortably though - the author criticises a fellow author for entitling a book "Up North", saying it is sarcastic and dismissive with its unfair generalisations, however if you look back to the first couple of chapters of this book and you'll see that Stuart Maconie has done this with much of the South.
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on 24 June 2014
Let's get the basics out of the way, I love Stuart Maconie's writing and I'm half northern myself (Mum from Lancashire, Dad from Kent) and I know he's put the word 'Prejudice' in the title, as if to allay criticism but it's not enough, so I think I've got some insight into the issues here. Stuart Maconie's writing (and broadcasting) are marked with a genuine warmth and appreciation of diversity, be it music, writers or towns. His book 'Hope And Glory' should be a set text in all British schools, such is its comprehensive and contextual view of British history.

'Pies and Prejudice' by contrast can be disappointingly petty and unnecessarily snarky about, well, anywhere that isn't Wigan. It's a misnomer to say the book is about 'the North' when so much of it is concentrated on Manchester and its surrounding towns. It may be too much to expect a Lancastrian to gush too much about Yorkshire but it's a hell of a large county to dismiss as a mire of miserliness and introverted thinking but Northumbria is virtually limited to a discussion about Newcastle's hellish nightlife and the bridges over the Tyne. Cumbria is only defined by the pleasures of walking in the national park or the bleak horrors of its west coast towns.

Amazingly, the north's relationship to Scotland is barely discernible, such is Maconie's bias against all things south / London he fails to recognize that the residents of Carlisle, for example, are far more effected culturally and economically by Glasgow and Edinburgh than they ever are by London.

Indeed, the constant melding of the whole of southern Britain with London, as if they were one and the same, is both lazy and grossly untrue. His view of the capital is again, rather one dimensional - it's not all like Kensington and Islington and I think the residents of Redruth, Wisbech and Solihull feel just as disenfranchised from London as do the people of Huddersfield, Wigton and Wearmouth.

If he'd called something like 'My North' then the whole book would be a lot more comfortable to read, but calling it 'In Search Of The North' and then only bothering with a few pubs in a few towns does a great disservice to half of the country.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 March 2015
Speaking a reformed Northerner myself I must say that I did enjoy this book very much. The writing style is fluid and conversational although at times the author does rather labour the point and tries a bit too hard to be amusing. That said, the book is still good fun and takes me back to happier days back home in Liverpool. I lived abroad for many years and owning this book then and dipping into it from time to time did my soul some good.

A good book and one I would recommend.
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on 22 February 2013
Though as a true Northerner I would have preferred the title to be "Pie and Peas with Prejudice". This work offers a light hearted approach to the many differing claims of just where the North is or where folk believe it may begin as they move 'up country'. In essence what constitutes the North within the many green square acres of England. I'm not sure that Stuart ever really formed an opinion (though it is a while since I read this), however his observations can be ammusing.
I was born in Yorkshire and lived here most of my life, with a brief stay over in Lancashire. I still refer to the lands of Northumberland and Cumberland as "up North" - though do rest assured that the lands of Yorkshire and Lancashire are truely Northern! It is for the people of counties south of these parts to put their own arguments as indeed they do in this offering from Mr Maconie. Give it a read.
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on 9 May 2010
I grew up not very far from Maconie and I also became an adult at roughly the same time that Mrs Thatcher shut down the North, and I too have lived in the South for much of my adult life. So much of the book resonates for me, which makes me biased I suppose.

This book is not an encyclopaedic guide and I don't think it has any pretensions to be, although some reviewers have criticised it on these grounds, for e.g. spending too long in Lancashire (Yorkshiremen, probably). It should be taken for what it is, a book about northern-ness, and impressions recorded from a meander through interesting places, rather than as The Rough Guide to the North. On these terms it is an enjoyable read, both for Northerners, but also for Southerners who want to get an idea of what the North is like in an entertaining way.

I only have two criticisms:-
1. Maconie is rude about Lancashire cheese, which he describes as `anaemic, crumbly and tasting faintly of soap', a deplorable thing to write about a fine and subtle cheese. He should try some from one of the many excellent stalls on Bolton market, especially with Dundee cake, with which it goes surprisingly well

2. He moves seamlessly from Wigan, where he grew up, to Bury, glossing over the major urban area in between. This neglect is a typically chippy Wiganite reaction, sadly.
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on 8 March 2014
Firstly a nice wordplay of a title. A really enjoyable read particularly so being a fellow Lancastrian, and also having visited all the places mentioned, it struck so many chords with me. I've recommended the book to my son who has taken 'the shilling' and now works in London to ensure that he doesn't forget his roots!
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on 28 January 2016
A good holiday read.
It's not going to change your life, but if you're looking to Stuart Maconie for life changing ideas you've bigger problems than what book to read on the 08:15 to Manchester.
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on 16 July 2012
As a fan of Maconie's writing, this is my favourite of all his books. His later books seem to try and follow the formula of this book and don't quite hit the same note.

I may be slightly biased as a Northerner in my enjoyment of the book, but it covers places and bits of history that I didn't know about. My only qualm about this book is that there is a quite a lot of music history in the book and people with no interest in modern music won't be interested in long passages of the book (which was the case with a couple of people I leant it to) This means that the section on Manchester seems to be far longer than anything else in the book.
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on 27 August 2015
Stuart stops working on this book and it becomes a labour of love in Marsden (I think.) Superb,from the introduction in ciabbata - ridden London to the knee-trembling finale in Newcastle.
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on 18 February 2018
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