Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Book Notes: Adventures on the High Teas by Stuart Maconie

I loved Maconie's previous outing - his 'love letter' to the new North of England, his homeland, "Pies and Prejudice", it was witty, charming and somehow seemed to reek of passionate authenticity. I was intrigued to see that in the follow-up volume, the quintessentially 'northern' broadcaster had travelled across 'middle England' searching for its identity, probing its history and traversing its landscape.

The results are not what I had expected. After a few disparaging remarks in Pies and Prejudice, unfavourably comparing the the soft south with the gritty North - I was expecting plenty of derision here. But while I expected the full weight of Maconie's 'Northern' eloquence to be directed against a parody of Daily Mail reading, 'disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' caricatures - in fact Maconie was a better writer than this. His book explores the swathes of England that actually exist, rather than the popular parody that lingers in the minds of too many journalists -and others who have never actually lived there. He is in turn, bemused, surprised, charmed and delighted by much of what he finds, and visits many places with which I am familiar in his travels.

The only problem with the book is that it just doesn't sound like Stuart Maconie! While Pies and Prejudice is impossible to read without hearing his voice in your mind as you read - it was sometimes hard to imagine that this was all actually written by him at all! While P&P was all pathos, memory, passion, and written with immense personal knowledge - this book is stuffed full of well... competent research. While Pies and Prejudice was curiously moving, this one is .. just rather nice. Perhaps that though was the point. Adventures on the High Teas was a pleasant and amusing way to meander away a few spare moments, but not in the same class as his previous outing. It was also a startling contrast to the last book I read on England, in every conceivable way.

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