Friday, July 9, 2010

I was once again drawn in at the local secondhand bookstore by an interesting-looking book with a British connection. In Mustn't Grumble by Joe Bennett, the author (a British born ex-pat living in New Zealand) decides to travel around Britain following the same path H.V. Morton took years earlier and documented in his book In Search of England.

Of course, I would be interested in any book about travel in Britain, but I was especially seduced (and you'd think by now I would have learned my lesson) by all the glowing blurbs on the cover. Among them: "Extremely funny," "A very funny book," A brilliant wit," and "A funny and poignant portrait of Bennett's homeland."

{sigh} I don't know, after seeing all that emphasis on humor, wouldn't you open the book with the expectation that there might be the odd chuckle to be had among the pages??? Maybe the likes of Bill Bryson and J. Maarten Troost have unreasonably raised my expectations in regard to humorous travel books. Suffice it to say, there was nary a giggle to be found in this dreary travel tome.

The author has acquaintances scattered around Britain that he visits throughout his trip, which I'm sure was all very nice for him, but his narratives of the encounters don't exactly make for exciting reading for the uninvolved observer. He's also inordinately fond of recounting his drunken exploits -- both old and new. Why he thinks anyone would care is a question that's never answered.

Perhaps if I had been familiar with the Morton book I would have enjoyed this one more, as the author is continually comparing Morton's descriptions of towns with what he encounters some 80 years later. As it was, I found Bennett's descriptions of his day to day travels exceedingly dull. His main observations seem to be that no one will pick up hitch-hikers in Britain anymore, and that the British are extremely fearful of apparently widespread and random, out-of-control violence that plagues everyone who dares to step outside their homes.

So I'm not sure if all the authors of the raving blurbs on the cover of the book read a different one than I did, or if maybe they needed some wildly inaccurate blurbs for their own book covers. At any rate, I found nothing humorous and very little of interest in this book. I really MUST grumble about being misled yet again!

Final Verdict for Mustn't Grumble: One Gherkin, for some descriptions of unfamiliar areas of Britain, but overall a gloomy and unamusing read


Gail Is This Mutton? said...

There's nothing more disappointing than being beguiled by the kudos and comments and then finding a book is really dull.

Lisanne624 said...

Oh I know, Gail, and they get me every time! :) When will I ever learn???

About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

0gherkins3Don't be givin' me evils!

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