The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British

Sarah Lyall, Author . Norton $24.95 (289p) ISBN 978-0-393-05846-8

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.)

Reviewed on: 06/23/2008
Release date: 08/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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