Lyall is a first-rate reporter, and her book has all the hallmarks of her journalism: it is warm, blunt, confessional, companionable. Which is to say: it is very American. The country she describes, "that oldest and most charismatic of nation-states," as the writer Jan Morris once called it, is cold, private, oblique to the point of opacity and reticent to the point of silence. Which is to say: it is very British. The book's charm lies in the collision of these two facts…an affectionate, joshing effort to understand and explain the British from beak to tail feather.
The New York Times
In the early 1990s, New York Times publishing reporter Lyall transferred to London "for love." Now she produces the latest in a seemingly inexhaustible genre that dissects British quirks and remarks how peculiar are the inhabitants of that moist little isle. With George Orwell's essay "England Your England" and Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island the best-known examples, Lyall's is an appropriately humorous tale of the struggle to accommodate to her new British way of life and to make sense of the profound culture shock she experienced. But Lyall's observations are neither overly perceptive nor interesting and much of her material is creakingly familiar: aristocrats, for example, pronounce some words differently than their working-class compatriots, Britons love animals (a special memorial honors animals who aided British troops in wartime) and the game of cricket is boring. This is a light, fluffy read that will be enjoyed by first-time visitors to Britain and even a few nostalgic British expatriates. But while Lyall's writing is, as always, witty and tart, it will disappoint those seeking serious analysis or original insights. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Since moving from New York to London in the 1990s and marrying British author Robert McCrum, Lyall (sarahlyall.com), a London correspondent for the New York Times, has come to love the eccentricities of the British-their miserable food, their bad teeth, their shocking Page Three girls-all of which she playfully skewers here. Audie® Award nominee Cassandra Campbell (Keeper of the Doves) perfectly captures the British voices, cadences, and nuances, adding significantly to the overall enjoyment of this delightful, hilarious look at our cousins across the pond. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Audio clip available through www.tantor.com; the Norton hc, recommended "for libraries with a British or devotedly Anglophile audience," LJ9/1/08, was a New York Times best seller.-Ed.]
Joseph L. Carlson
New York Times publishing correspondent Lyall, based in London and married to a Brit, takes some gentle, fond pokes at our trans-Atlantic brethren. Though raised in New York, the author has lived in London since the mid-'90s, and speaks from experience about what makes the British tick. The stereotypes are difficult to get past, she admits, since they frequently ring true: The English are more reserved and repressed than Americans, for example. In chapters chock-full of anecdotes and friends' stories, Lyall gets to the roots of why this might be. (The woeful state of sex education, especially at all-male boarding schools, might have something to do with it, or that "bastion of unreconstructed maleness," the House of Commons.) The author also looks at newspaper readers' love-hate relationship with those lurid tabloids, the British penchant for binge drinking, the bewildering game of cricket and very bad teeth. Their horror of public display translates into a "making-do" mentality in many older Brits, including aristocrats, who prefer the threadbare to the new, the old decayed mouth to a new Americanized veneer. The English, Lyall finds, talk themselves down so that they appear resilient and intrepid in the face of hardship; this might be residue from World War II. "Britons emphasize their faults in part as a way to demonstrate the charm of their self-deprecation," she notes, offering a smattering of lonely-hearts ads by way of example. Following the rise of new wealth and more open materialism in the late '90s, England has undergone a revolution in the service industry, to uneven effect in such areas as the heating of rooms. Observations on English weather, class and accents are nothingnew, of course, and Lyall cites numerous writers who have mined the field, including George Orwell, Bill Bryson and Julian Barnes. Her generous take on her adopted compatriots can sit without embarrassment next to their volumes on the shelf. Fresh, funny and occasionally wicked. Agent: Kathy Robbins/The Robbins Office
New York Times Book Review
Lyall is at her tart, observant best. Matt Weiland
From the Publisher
"Lyall is a first-rate reporter, and her book has all the hallmarks of her journalism: it is warm, blunt, confessional, companionable." The New York Times
“A witty, incisive collection of essays . . . on everything English.”
“A razor-sharp . . . wickedly insightful, decidedly biased account of everything British.”
Matt Weiland - New York Times Book Review
“Lyall is at her tart, observant best.”