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on 1 March 2014
Another excellent Maconie tome. I listen to him regularly on 6 so this is as though he was reading aloud to me. V difficult to put down; one follows his enthusiasm from each idea, to each fact , tea cake and latte.
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on 14 September 2011
I've been a fan of Stuart Maconie for some time and have thoroughly enjoyed all his books, particularly 'Pies and Prejudice'. I wasn't actually sure he would ever better that effort but with 'Hope and Glory' he has at least matched it and possibly gone on a step further. 'As funny as Bryson and as wise as Orwell' is the Observer's verdict and for once this is no hyperbole. Maconie writes beautifully, he has created laugh out loud moments alongside moving accounts written with great poignancy. Some would describe Stuart Maconie as having a left wing agenda but really his observations transcend politics. He simply writes with enormous compassion and a thorough understanding of the human condition. From the Battle of the Somme to the National Front, the Suffragettes to Simon Cowell via Bobby Moore, Punk and a whole lot more this is history as it should be. Never dull, always entertaining, informative and full of lessons we should learn from. An outstanding book and certainly my candidate for the most enjoyable book of the year.
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Having really loved Stuart Maconie's last three books in which he looked at his obsession with pop music , what it means to be a northerner and the quirks of the British middle classes, I was a bit worried that he might have been running out of ideas with this latest one. The theme seemed a bit tenuous - pick a date from each decade of the 20th century and visit key places to find out more about the events that have shaped the Britain we live in today. I needn't have worried; Maconie's writing is as warm and funny as ever and he manages to make both earth-shattering events and mundane everyday occurrences equally interesting and relevant.

The events Stuart has chosen to illustrate the social history of the 20th century range from the rise of the Suffragettes, the General Strike and the emerging Trade Union movement to the arrival of The Windrush, the birth of punk and the landslide election of 1997 - all subjects which interest me so he pretty much had my attention guaranteed from the start. However, he also managed to keep me informed and entertained through chapters on mountaineering (the Queen's coronation and the conquering of Everest in June 1953) and football (England's 1966 World Cup victory). No mean feat I can tell you.

As he travels around in search of the people and places involved (consuming copious pots of tea and toasted teacakes in museum cafes en route), we are treated to the usual wry asides and insightful observations fans have come to know and love from his previous books. This description of the portrait of Prince Albert on display in Osborne House really made me chuckle: "Furthermore, he wears that expression of ineffable pain and weariness familiar to anyone who's just been told they need a new boiler".

Every time I read a Stuart Maconie book I vow to make more time to listen to him on the radio, but somehow never get round to it. If he's as funny and perceptive on air as he is in print I'm definitely missing out on something.
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on 12 July 2011
What a great pleasure to see a writer grow with each book. I have now read all of his work and he just gets better. Perhaps it is his taste in music or his politics? Or perhaps it is just the humour and warmth that leap from every page, but I love his work. I cannot wait for the next installment. I have travelled every step of the way with the writer and felt the love in his subject. if you only but one book this summer please buy this
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on 5 September 2014
Well, Bryson he ain't... and he makes Orwell sound like a right-wing swivel-eyed loony. Maconie parades his right-on PC credentials, having a go at all the usual targets - Thatcher, Cameron and Royalty. Basically he's saying "The People are Alright" regardless of what politicians get up to. Worth a shufty, but it won't change your life...
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on 1 July 2011
Previous books by Stuart Maconie have mixed his particular brand of Northern whimsy with elements of British travelogue and social history-lite. In Hope & Glory Maconie attempts something a little more ambitious; an exploration of the social and cultural development of modern Britain through ten 'key events' of the twentieth century, roughly one from each decade, brought to life by visiting the sites where the events took place. It is a simple enough idea, but while Maconie is an amiable companion for most of his somewhat rambling journey, he doesn't quite stick to the plot, nor fully deliver the concept.

The problem is largely that Maconie allows too much of himself and his personal likes and prejudices to get in the way. While he is clearly no social commentator of the calibre of George Orwell, despite The Observer's effusive cover blurb, Maconie writes interestingly enough about events such as the fight for universal suffrage, and in particular the first day of the battle of the Somme. Where things begin to go wrong is when Maconie allows his left-wing 'sociology teacher' politics, not just to intrude on his analysis of events, but to completely overwhelm them. Hence every tired cliche in the book is deployed to ensure that we are left in no doubt that the Royals are pointless, privileged, out of touch half-wits, while the likes of Paul Cook (erstwhile Sex Pistol and 'God Save The Queen' contributor) is a 'hell of a nice chap', despite being judged by most reasonable people at the time of his 5 minutes of fame, as a bit of a foul-mouthed oik. The 'Battle of Orgreave' during the miners' strike of 84/85 is portrayed as a deliberate attempt by the establishment, through the underhand machinations of the police, to provoke a violent confrontation; everyone involved in the social and political unrest of the 1920s was a peace-loving salt-of-the-earth worker fighting justifiably for the right to work; Enoch Powell was essentially a right-wing loon with a Hitler moustache. While there may be elements of truth in Maconie's assertions, his credentials as an unbiased and analytical observer are never properly established, and in the worst passages he has a tendency to soapbox rather than back up his claims with properly researched evidence.

The book is at its best when Maconie is on home ground, talking about his equal loves of music and hill-walking. The few pages in which he muses lovingly about the Lake District hills and tantalises the reader with the promise of returning to this subject in the future, are the best in the book. Maconie loses his sense of humour when peddling his politics, and this makes for difficult and stodgy reading. When he lightens up, as in his analysis of the Blair years in the book's final chapter, the political commentary becomes far more astute and readable. Perhaps stung by the Bill Bryson comparisons, Stuart Maconie has opted to write something with more bite and gravitas. A fine idea no doubt, but one which needed to be backed up with a little more intellectual rigour and a little less reliance on populist left-wing cliche.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 May 2012
I think Mr Maconie has been let down by a sub-editor or someone because the blurb on the back of the paperback edition has some nonsense on it. Apparently Sir Edmund Hillary was a "Briton" and the book is described as a "...journey round Britain...". Well if he ever went to Scotland I missed it so it should read a "journey round England". Trivial matters perhaps but if this is what is on the cover can we trust the content inside?

I have to take issue with the rather sneery "class warrior" stance that the author takes on many occasions as well. Yes there are easy targets and he doesn't fail to hit them but by the end of the book it all becomes rather tiresome and obvious. Where he does score though is in some of the descriptive, observational passages which are witty and clever and redeem the book to a great degree.

I appreciate that it is difficult to address British - or should I say - English history without some reference to class but because Mr Maconie paints it on with too large a brush in this volume I'm afraid as a historical commentary it is slightly tarnished. As a travelogue and observational piece however it passes muster OK
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on 8 October 2015
This book was quite good, but I did not enjoy it as much as his others. It is quite serious in tone and very politically left wing. There are the usual interesting historical articles but I did find myself skimming through some of the more political parts.
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on 20 October 2012
I have to declare an immediate interest - I regard Stuart Maconie as one of the best broadcasters and chroniclers of everyday life currently around. He's incredibly witty and funny, and as always that is what makes this book sparkle. He also appears to be an incredibly nice bloke, a humane and sypathetic commentator, and someone who would provide unbeatable company down the pub. This is an interesting concept for a book, occupies a niche I've not seen filled before, and is written with Stuart's usual attractive blend of acute observation and accessible explanation of what in other hands would be dry historical context.

However I'm not sure why someone (presumably at the publishers) decided to add the subtitle "A People's History of Modern Britain" - as this simply points up a couple of weaknesses in the book. Namely that it's not really a "People's History", and it's not really "of Britain".

It's a series of explorations of aspects of everyday life which help shape the society we live in, each cleverly hung on the peg of a key date from each decade. However Maconie makes no bones about his personal perspective in all these areas, and his accounts are - by his own declaration - far from impartial. That makes for a fun read, but anyone expecting an authoritative reference book should look elsewhere. For example it makes a very pleasant change (as opposed to the usual tabloid agenda about immigration and race) to read a positive and truthful account of how those living in areas filled with people from around the world generally get on well with each other - because underneath all the cultural differences, most people wherever they're from are nice, considerate and decent. But there's a niggling doubt that Stuart really should have mentioned - even in passing - that not everything is rosy in every corner of multi-cultural Britain. That is also a fact of contemporary life, and Stuart does the noble cause of tolerance no favours by ignoring it.

And although all the themes explored apply to Britain as a whole, this is essentially a book about England. It's not just Maconie's slightly irritating tic of using the word "England" when he means "Britain" and vice versa, and it's not just that he makes only one single foray outside of England, to Snowdon. It's the fact that he appears disappointingly unaware of the different perspectives from different parts of the UK on almost every theme in the book. An obvious untold story, an unusual 'take' I've never seen chronicled, would be the reaction to 1966 in the bits of the UK outside England. Were people cheering on their neighbours? Were they in fact supporting Germany? Or - as I suspect - were they really not much bothered one way or the other? Same with the chapter on rambling and the 'right to roam' - there's literally no mention of the fact that this issue was pioneered under entirely separate legislation in Scotland.

The final chapter - the weakest of the book - illustrates the problem perfectly. In 100 years' time what will be remembered about the 1990's won't be a landslide election (what Stuart concentrates on), nor even the mass grief following a royal death. What the history books will record will be the end of 40 years of violence in Northern Ireland, and the biggest shake-up of the British constitution for 300 years in the form of devolution to Wales and Scotland. But because these aren't English phenomena, Stuart can't find even one word to mention them however fleetingly.

It's a shame, because despite all that I would heartily recommend this as an entertaining, insightful and very funny book by a gifted writer and top bloke.
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on 21 July 2011
I love Stuart Maconie's writing; it is intelligent, intellectual, articulate and very,very funny. I like the way he spares not the idiocies of the present day, the "dribbling" television programmes, the culture of unmerited celebrity and the generally weary folk he meets. This book is a fantastic ramble through history, geography and his own subject of sociology.Be warned, though; this author can reduce you to tears.
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