I found this book in a “withdrawn from stock pile” at my local library. I’m prone to dipping in and out of trivia every now and then, so this fit the bill nicely. Harry Oliver has selected a range of typically British icons and gives a brief explanation on each one. The book covers a variety of topics – Great British Institutions, famous landmarks, transport and travel, food and drink, arts and entertainment, music, language and even children’s literature.
David Attenborough, the NHS, Buckingham Palace, Guy Fawkes and all the traditional British icons are there (yes, the Beatles are in there too!). However, there are also explanations about Morris dancing, black cabs, the artist Banksy, Monty Python, Heinz Beanz and Comic Relief. Each explanation is approximately a page long, so there isn’t any heavy detail to weigh one down, but rather a brief and sometimes quite entertaining glance at a few key points.
I was fascinated to learn that Moira Cameron was the first female Beefeater and that she took up this post in 2007. And did you know that Isabella Beeton, the author of that staple of good housekeeping Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, died of septicaemia when she was only 28? Somehow, I had always imagined her as being a rather more mature woman. Which just goes to show that I should learn more about the people who write the cookbooks I read!
There were some fabulous nuggets of information in this book and I learned quite a bit. It was light, enjoyable and well worth a read. I’m putting it back in a book swap so that others can enjoy it as much as I did. If you have a chance, give it a go.
Publisher: Metro Publishing
Publication year: 2009