The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British

( 24 )

Overview

"Sarah Lyall, a young reporter for the New York Times, moved to London in the mid-1990s, and soon became known for her amusing and incisive dispatches from her adopted country. Confronted by the eccentricities of these island people (the charming new husband who never turned on the lights, the militant hedgehog enthusiasts, the people who extracted their own teeth), Lyall set about trying to figure out the British." The Anglo Files is a lively chronicle of Lyall's strange, often exotic fairy tale - a part-anthropological, part-memoiristic account ...
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The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British

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Overview

"Sarah Lyall, a young reporter for the New York Times, moved to London in the mid-1990s, and soon became known for her amusing and incisive dispatches from her adopted country. Confronted by the eccentricities of these island people (the charming new husband who never turned on the lights, the militant hedgehog enthusiasts, the people who extracted their own teeth), Lyall set about trying to figure out the British." The Anglo Files is a lively chronicle of Lyall's strange, often exotic fairy tale - a part-anthropological, part-memoiristic account of nearly fifteen years spent observing and dissecting a country undergoing vast social change. Outgoing and inquisitive, Lyall soon learned that the best way to communicate with her next-door neighbors was to send them a letter; that many Londoners rode the subway without the benefit of deodorant, and that it is considered rude to ask new acquaintances what sort of work they do.
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Editorial Reviews

Matt Weiland
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
Publishers Weekly

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.
Library Journal

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

Kirkus Reviews
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
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
Elle
“A witty, incisive collection of essays . . . on everything English.”
Graydon Carter
“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.”
New York Times Book Review
Lyall is at her tart, observant best.— Matt Weiland
Elle
A witty, incisive collection of essays . . . on everything English.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393058468
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/28/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 679,241
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Lyall grew up in New York City and writes for the New York Times in London. She lives there with her husband, the writer Robert McCrum, and their two daughters.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Lunch with an Earl 1

1 Naughty Boys and Rumpy-Pumpy 11

2 Honorable Members 32

3 A Fact Too Good to Check 50

4 Distressed British Nationals 71

5 More than a Game 91

6 Toiletgate 107

7 Lawmakers from Another Planet 126

8 False Modesty 145

9 The Naked Guy and Angle-Grinder Man 164

10 Invasion of the Hedgehog People 181

11 "I Snapped It Out Myself" 193

12 Wine from Weeds 206

13 "By God, Sir, I've Lost My Leg!" 228

14 The Best of the Day 247

Further Reading 265

Index 271

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 24 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 11, 2009

    Rue Britannia

    Well-written and amusing take on English society by an American woman now living there with an English husband. She surprises by not being simply flip and funny, which is the usual way of such books, but actually supporting her viewpoints with facts. I docked it one star because a good bit of this is by now pretty familiar stuff, but that's arguably unfair.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2009

    English as a Second Language

    I've been working with English brands and dating an English man for years, so it seemed only fitting that I read this book. Sarah Lyall clearly paid attention to her surroundings -- although her subjects might not be too happy about that.

    There were some laugh out loud moments, and some often slow moments that lead to a payoff for the sake of understanding just how the English operate (not to say they make sense, but they sound so polite and well intentioned, that you really don't care).

    While I could've skipped the cricket chapter, I enjoyed reading this book, as it hit so close to home.

    If you're planning a trip to England, or considering a move there, definitely read this book. It may keep you from getting beat up in a pub.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2009

    A great read!

    This witty and informative book takes an endearing look at the British from the point of view of an American who is married to a British subject. Chapters are organized around themes such as the Houses of Parliament, British Cuisine, and Teeth, to name a few. (I found myself laughing out loud many times during my reading of it. The book is well-written and FUNNY! A great vacation read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2009

    Very entertaining and insightful

    I never write reviews, but in this case I wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author is very, very funny and writes beautifully--I found myself laughing out loud a LOT. As an American married to a Scot for nearly thirty years, I found answers that have eluded me. For example, whenever we've had friends or relatives visiting from the U.K., they'll kindly offer to wash the dishes, but never rinse off the soap. This has mystified me and not that it even matters (though this very example, mentioned in a review, is what made me buy the book in the first place), but this is precisely the sort of thing she discusses or explains: behaviors I've noticed over the years that I didn't quite understand. And she does it so well. She's amazingly insightful, but it's her pitch-perfect sense of humor that really makes this book such a pleasure to read. It's a fun, fast read that I'd highly recommend, especially for anyone with British spouse and in-laws.

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