Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Virtual Book Group



How do you like your coffee? Have a white chocolate and pistachio cookie...shall we sit down...

I have just finished a super read - 'The Shuttle' by Frances Hodgson Burnett, it was exactly what I like from a book - thoughtful and left me wanting more when it was finished.
The Shuttle is a story of American women marrying into the English Aristocracy at the turn of century. These elegant creatures were a key American export - and turned the diminishing fortunes around of many a grand English Estate.

But the book really left me feeling that the work these women did, has gone rather unappreciated. They married some truly ghastly men (ok, so they got a title, but I'm sure it wasn't worth it) they got to live in some rotting old stately homes and they were often loathed by the 'establishment'.
Against this backdrop they sunk their dollars into restoring England's architectural history, keeping these amazing buildings going, so that they still stand proud for future generations to experience.

Later on Sunday morning, I listened to a debate - the subject was 'what makes people feel British?'
It was interesting - the panel were a mixed bag, Scottish, Anglo Indian etc they all explained what they believed made people feel British - the reasons varied, but none of them had any resonance with me.

I would question - why do we NEED to think of ourselves as British? - is it just an old boy's club? Is it the remnants of the Empire? Or do some just feel too 'small' being England?
Switzerland is small, but looks pretty confident as does titchy Monaco!
Small is beautiful - and we should just celebrate that!

Actually, I don't feel British at all! I never describe myself as that - I'm English - I feel English, my ancestors were too. I could never imagine living anywhere else (I haven't lost a grip, I KNOW - it's cold and it's wet - and that's just the summer) But I can't help myself - I love it here!
If I was going to push a point, I don't think anyone is truly British - it's just an umbrella term which unites England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I'm certain that most Scots would not think of themselves as British, and the Welsh and Irish the same. Indeed, ask a Cornishman what he is - and I can guess his answer!

Since we started on the subject - America is happy being itself, and doesn't feel the need to cling to South America - in fact this has to be the most confident of all nations. So confident, that it is happy to become another nationality - just think of those brave young women weaving their way over the ocean to become the custodian of some dusty old pile!

Who's choosing the next months book?

'The Shuttle' is published by Persephone Books - which are stocked at Mr B's Emporium - see link at side!