July 2024
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Review: Pies and Prejudice, Stuart Maconie

Despite being a son of the North of England, Stuart Maconie has found himself mostly living in the South, a very different place. When he realizes he has a cappuccino maker and keeps sundried tomatoes on hand at all times – both, apparently, very un-Northern things to do – he decides to return to the country of his childhood in search of the true North. He explores how the cities and countryside have changed over the years and whether any of the stereotypes still hold true.

I haven’t lived in England for all that long and even I know the stereotypes of Northerners – generally big, dirty men (I always think of miners, probably for good reason as there were many here) with rough exteriors but a heart of gold. For the most part, that’s what you get on TV shows, especially older ones. Of course, the mining industry is basically gone now, and Northern towns are pretty much the same as Southern towns, in my limited experience, so Maconie’s quest to discover the true North interested me very much. After all, we live in the North now, so I was looking forward to finding out more about it.

Unfortunately, I think this book didn’t really suit me personally as a reader. For one thing, I’m American. There are many, many British cultural references that I’m still unfamiliar with and I’m pretty sure Maconie uses every last one of them. He also relies heavily on many places’ musical roots, which again I’m unfamiliar with. I know the big British bands that made it over the pond, but there are quite a few – many of which are probably big names over here – that I just hadn’t heard of. There were also a few notes about football, which is again something I’m not crazy about, nor do I know the details of football history and rivalries.  So, I’d recommend other non-Brits to be a bit hesitant before picking it up.

For me that was kind of a shame, because I did quite enjoy the rest of the book. I loved learning about the different Northern cities and how they’d changed over the years, whether they’d done well this century or not. The book is slightly outdated so I’m not sure the same towns are still prosperous, but it was all very interesting and usually focused on areas I didn’t know much about. He did manage to leave out a large part of Yorkshire, including the bit that I live in, despite having a whole chapter on the country.  I think his focus was on the “happening” cities and the ones around here aren’t really what I’d call exciting. I think Maconie does a decent job breaking the North out of its stereotyping and explaining just why it’s so appealing. It’s not the dirty poor place that it’s imagined to be.

I think Pies and Prejudice would appeal to those Brits who are interested in a cultural journey through the North of England, but I’d hesitate to recommend it to anyone who isn’t very familiar with British culture and recent history.

I am an Amazon Associate. I borrowed this book from my local library.


5 comments to Review: Pies and Prejudice, Stuart Maconie

  • I used to live in the North (York) and was excited to pick up this book a few weeks ago. However, I didn’t love it for many of the same reasons you didn’t. I’m an American and just didn’t understand so many of the pop culture references and some of the bands. I also thought there was a heavy reliance on the stereotypes of the North and South, and I don’t know how well that sits not being a native myself. There were definitely parts I enjoyed, though, and having moved South last year I was interested in seeing some of those perceptions of the South from Northern eyes. In any case, I still have no desire to see Manchester.
    Kate´s last post …I amElizabeth

  • I’m vaguely interested in picking this one up, but I think I’d have many of the same issues as you. I know nothing about football so all those references would go over my head. I’m also aware that Maconie is very into his music and so I don’t think you need to worry about not knowing all the bands he mentions – I don’t think many people would either. I have lived in both the north and the south so have noticed cultural differences between the two (mainly along the lines of notherners being more friendly to strangers and not rushing around everywhere!) but I would be interested to see what Maconie has noticed. I might have to pick this one out!
    Jackie (Farm Lane Books)´s last post …Read or Reject 1

  • From the summary you posted, this sounded like it would be a book for me, but after reading your reactions to it, I am not so sure anymore. I think the idea of what he was trying to do was appealing, but it sounds as if the style and execution were not. A lot of what you were describing just doesn’t interest me at all, so I think I am going to end up skipping this one. Thanks for the penetrating review though!

  • Have you seen North & South? You must!
    heidenkind´s last post …The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

  • Thanks for the warning. I think I’ll skip this and stick with North & South!
    Beth F´s last post …Review- The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown