A mystery and a social history

>> Sunday, September 09, 2012

TITLE: The Affair of the Mutilated Mink
AUTHOR: James Anderson

In this book, written in 1981, but set in the 20s, a "talkies"-mad Earl is immensely flattered when a movie producer wants to set his latest costume drama in the Earl's country house. The producer (together with the Earl's favourite actor, who's supposed to star in the film) are invited to the house to scope it out. And before the Earl knows it, the whole thing has turned into a house party, with every single room in the massive house in use.

I read the first 120 or so pages. It started out well. The author was clearly having fun with the setting and the characters were nicely quirky. After a while, though, the quirky characters turned cartoonish. The dialogue, especially, started to do my head in. Stilted, exaggerated and (in the case of an Italian character who turns up out of the blue) frankly offensive. I was also annoyed by characters behaving in extremely stupid ways. There's a very confusing scene set in the middle of the night, with characters creeping around and hitting each other, and the next morning, no one says anything to anyone else, even the characters who were doing absolutely nothing wrong (and who no one would have thought were doing something wrong).

I just couldn't be arsed to continue.


TITLE: Hope and Glory: The Days That Made Britain
AUTHOR: Stuart Maconie

The premise of Hope and Glory is Maconie setting up to explore the places and people related to events that made Britain into what it is today, one for each decade of the 20th century. He visits the spot where each of those significant events took place, and tells us about it all, with a generous helping of his own views and opinions in the commentary.

It was an entertaining, enjoyable book to read. I liked the premise, but I wasn't so wedded to it that I minded the frequent detours, especially since they were interesting in themselves. I really enjoy Maconie's writing and humour, and since we're kind of on the same side politically, his inclusion of so many of his own opinions didn't annoy me in the least.

An added bonus was that quite a few of the subjects he covers I didn't know all that much about -for instance, this was the first place I ever heard of Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech (well, it's not the first thing people tell you about when you've just emmigrated to this country!). Reading about them here sparked off a bit of further research, which I enjoyed as well.



Anonymous,  10 September 2012 at 15:01  

Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech was responsible for the biggest (and by all accounts, only) wave of blatantly open racism and discrimination between late 1960s and early 1980s.

Some of my relatives were treated reasonably fine (only random strangers now and then) until the speech and after that, it pretty much went downhill. Some of people they knew all their lives completely rejected them. Quite a few POC across the country got sacked during that period as well. Dreadful time. At least, thankfully, there were many who didn't agree with Powell. It did take the entire 1970s to correct the balance, though. Shame, really.

I should get that book as it seems quite interesting. Thanks for the heads up!


Rosario 10 September 2012 at 19:47  

I found that chapter just jaw-dropping. There's so many things I had no idea at all about before I moved here, even though I guess I knew more about the country than your average newcomer. But if you'd asked me, I wouldn't have guessed that this country had had such huge issues with racism and xenophobia. Unbelievable.

I hope you like the book, if you do get it. There is quite a bit of Maconie in it, so I guess it will depend on whether you like him (and agree with his opinions!)

Anonymous,  10 September 2012 at 20:02  

I had no idea you moved to here for good(?). I assumed it was just as long as your job would last.

Britain is quite odd. Overall, it wasn't racist and xenophobic but there were punches of those throughout history. Usually due to grand speeches like that arsehole's speech or war, e.g. Scottish Italian and Polish families - poor and wealthy - were rounded up and sent to POW camps across Scotland during WWII. They had to start all over again once they were freed. (Weirdly, they didn't and still don't hold a grudge against Scotland for it.)

On the other hand, Britain has always been good at 'failing to recognise' colour when comes to sharing a social burden or cause. Such as accepting a black Briton as one of their leaders during, for instance, the Chartist movement (roughly 1830s). During this period, they loathe and disrespected anyone of French ancestry, but welcomed black people (as long as not French, of course).

So yeah, like I say, Britain is odd in that respect. As in believing that nationality and class matter more than race. :D Weird.


Rosario 10 September 2012 at 21:06  

I did! It was originally just for a year, while I did my master's, but I discovered living here suited me much better than Uruguay. I got a job and I've been living in Liverpool ever since.

Do you think the bouts of racism and xenophobia might have something to do with economic crisis, as well? With xenophobia, at least, I definitely notice a difference in the last few years.

Anonymous,  11 September 2012 at 14:58  

Liverpool won you over with its charms, eh? :D

Most likely, yeah. Note the years of those incidents:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_of_Discontent and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Race_riots_in_England

Pretty much everyone from older generations says the period between 1967 and 1981 was dark, depressing and tense. Both economic and social.

On the other hand, it's an era of major legal changes that forced Britain to, however begrudgingly, recognise and accepte its multiculturalism. Until then, although very much part of the country, POC were largely invisible. Such as historians and officials ignoring their significant contributions to society, WWI, WWII, social changes and the like as well as doing away the inconsistency.

For instance, interracial marriage was never illegal, but the moment a British white woman marries one, she is likely to lose her British citizenship. Most didn't, but some did. There was no law that say they should lose it, but according to some arses, it "existed". Meanwhile, British men didn't lose theirs when marrying non-British women. So there was an Act in (I think) 1974 that clarified that there was never a law for British women to lose their British citizenship altogether, therefore making them lose it as a result of marrying non-British men is illegal. This Act had helped to restore affected women's British citizenship status. That's one example.

So I suppose that era is a mixture of the best and the worst.

Sorry for rambling so long, but thanks for hearing me out. :D


Rosario 11 September 2012 at 19:40  

Oh, don't apologise, there's so much of what you're telling me that I had no idea about! I watched many of the programmes on the BBC last year on interracial relationships in the UK, but the issue of women losing their citizenship for entering into one is completely new to me. Wow.

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