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The Angry Island: Hunting the English

3.2 of 5 stars 3.20  ·  rating details  ·  186 ratings  ·  42 reviews
The default setting of England is anger. The English are naturally, congenitally, collectively and singularly, livid much of the time. In between the incoherent bellowing of the terraces and the pursed, rigid eye-rolling of the commuter carriage, they reach the end of their tethers and the thin end of their wedges. They're incensed, incandescent, splenetic, prickly, touchy ...more
Hardcover, 237 pages
Published November 10th 2004 by George Weidenfeld & Nicholson
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Most foreign observers of the English – like American Bill Bryson – typically focus on the charm or silliness of British culture and manners. But Gill, a native who originally hails from Scotland (despite his Received Pronunciation accent today), skewers his homeland and culture in a take-no-prisoners way. He’s cruel, never to be kind. (My apologies to the Bard of Avon.)

Gill’s strongest criticism about his native land is the English propensity to romanticize the past. He completely dismantles th
"England's default setting is anger: lapel-poking, Chinese-burning, ram-raiding, street-shouting, sniping, spitting, shoving,vengeful, inventive rage. But many of the traits and tics that make the English so singular and occasionally admirable are the deflective mechanisms that they've invented to diffuse anger. The tolls and speed bumps and diversions of anger. Not giving in to your nature is very English, clinging on, white-knuckled, bottling the urges, refusing to slide into spittle-flecked r ...more
It's interesting to read what an Englishman thinks of England and its people. And in the case of A.A. Gill, he doesn't like his fellow citizens that much. Yet, there is a certain amount of grace and understanding of his fellow Brits. But nevertheless this is sort of a sad book. Especially the drinking part of the book, which is also a big part of contemporary British culture.

As an American I find the U.K. fascinating. We speak the same (sort of ) language, yet culturally we are so far apart. I
Paul Winter Solstice
I saw recommendation of this book somewhere and borrowed it from the library. What a trash it turned out to be! The author just keeps showing off his command of rare archaic words to express his bigoted ideas. The first few chapters were particularly horrible! But being a person who does not give up easily, I trudged through the whole book. Oh, gosh, what a torture!
I did read this quite quickly and enjoyed much of it, but I couldn't help comparing it to Kate Fox's Watching the English. Maybe it's because of my scientific background, or maybe it's because I get so scared by shouty people, but I found her descriptions of behaviours she had observed while seeking evidence to develop a description of what it means to be English as entertaining, less superficial, and in many ways more true than Gill's rant. He seems to have started from the opposite end: this i ...more
This collection of essays starts with the premise that the defining characteristic of England is anger and looks at a number of things through that prism. At times this works better than at others - the essays on Political Correctness and Letchworth Garden City, to name two, fail to live up to their promise. Oddly, he's left out several topics that one would have thought were fertile ground for his anger (eg, Education).

The reality is that Gill is the Angry Essayist, albeit one with a sense of h
A.A.Gill protests too much, of course, ascribing much of his own sham anger to the English that he describes. This makes for cuttingly witty prose, but after a few chapters, it does get to be a bit one-note. Gill is at his best where he engages in serious cultual criticism, as in his discussion of British war monuments, or the vestigial class system that continues to affect many people's daily reality. So, an instructive and often entertaining read, but not one I'll return to often. (As a side n ...more
Patrice Sartor
I made it to page 30 before giving up. I don't want to read any more about what Mr. Gill thinks about England and its people, and I couldn't even finish the chapter about postcards and portraits. Zzz. While I found the subject matter dull, I didn't think Gill was a terrible writer. Yet I was hoping he would be clever and witty, and he was neither. Maybe it's *me*, but since I am a member of ALL (Anonymous Literary Losers--though I guess I'm not so anonymous any more), I get a pass. If you're anx ...more
Samantha Allum
Mr Gill, people who look down on other people don’t end up being looked up to.
Jul 20, 2008 Rose added it
Shelves: 2008
Just very, very, annoying (does that prove his hypothesis?). I read this based on a quote for it that I thought was very true, but the book failed to live up to this in a big way. Excessive generalisations and dodgy conclusions abound, with the book full of stupidities like: "When I got back to London a week after the announcement that London had won the bid, no one mentioned the Olympics, it had become rather embarrassing" (or just maybe the horrendous terrorist attack London experienced just a ...more
Another Scot author who has spent most of his life in London ... a critic and features writer for the London Times.

The books premise is that the English are the way they are, good mannered, queue lining, gardeners, etc etc to hide their seething anger that lies within. A funny book thats meant to be funny (I think)... it loses me at times with societal and idiomatic references that my English relatives would know. One review blurb from The Daily Mail (London) called it "Utterly bloody rude" ...
Sam Pryce
I could read AA Gill's writing all day, everyday. In this fearless parody of England, Gill attacks every aspect of Englishness, pointing and cackling at their arrogance, insensitivity and overwhelming pride. Gill leaves no stone unturned; English humour, English war memorials, English accents, English faces, English class systems and even the Cotswolds are all analysed and mocked in AA Gill's scintillatingly sardonic tone.
After reading several chapters of this book, I did something I never do and decided not to waste my time on it. In short, Gill is an Englishman who doesn't feel like he belongs in the culture. So he skewers it.

I happen to love many things about the British culture and got really BORED of him railing against stupid, silly things. There was no point. I didn't get it.
This book was awful. The author came across as an angry Jock who is extremely bitter about the fact that he lives in England, and uses unnecessarily big words to ramble nonsense and whinge about the English. I'll never get those minutes of my life back that I spent trying to read this book, and now I'm the angry, bitter one.
This is an engaging screed against all things English by a man who, you suspect, likes the English people rather more than he lets on. Full of unsupportable generalizations, risible insults, and wildly inaccurate statements, but it also has trenchant insight and consistently entertaining reading.
Apparently this is not a patch on Table Talk but it's been a fairly enjoyable read. You seen some truths and snort over other ridiculous statements. It's all opinion after all. It is amusing how Gill protests that he's actually not English thank you very much, throughout the book.
Sergio GRANDE films
Witty. Funny. Mordant. Unless you're English. Then you'll probably find it offensive and annoying; maybe gratuitous enough to make you angry.
But you'll control your anger. Apparently that's your greatest strength: you're English so you can control your anger.
Good show, old chap.
Lisha Tompsett
I was required to read this book before going on my undergraduate study abroad trip to London. Our advisor insisted upon it. I can't thank him enough. It was such a funny, insightful book, and I absolutely loved reading it. I have suggested others read it, at least the chapter on tea.
Gavin Dobson
A clever-clever book that makes you laugh & groan in equal measure, like Bill Bryson on steroids. The author's conceit is exhausting. There are many witty turns of phrase but all that remains of this Cheshire cat by the end of the book is an empty sneer.
I thought A A Gill was the most English of English but it seems he is a Scot and therefore has an outsider's view of the English as a people. But it is as if he is forcing himself to be critical of the English... ultimately he is attacking traits in himself.
May 16, 2007 Rebecca rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: crosspatches
Boy, he doesn't half get a load of fancy words in. Think I prefer his restaurant and TV reviews but there are good chapters to dip in and out of. I might however dip out having reached 'The Cotswolds' and start on something less likely to make me irritable.
Lisa Knappen
This is not exactly the book I'm reading (so I chose something else by the same author!) - I am reading "Previous Convictions" by A.A. Gill, the biting, satirical and self proclaimed "most widely read columnist in Britian". So far, not that impressed...
A great and informative read, with snark and wit the whole way through. However, this is a book written for the English or those who have lived among them. Without previous experience, this will be a confusing read in parts for people in the US.
An interesting collection of essays about the nature of the English by an irritated Scotsman. The basic premise is that the English don't treasure manners and fair-play as goals in themselves, but as bases for being pissed off at everyone else.
This book made me so angry :D Not really. It's a bunch of tired cliches masquerading as humourous observations. A lot of what he says could relate to people of various nations, not just us English.
Brilliant. Gill's observational skills are put to eviscerative use. For anyone who's a product of Empire, this is a must-read. The chapter on war memorials (and the musings on Goths) are essential.
More a collection of essays than a coherent argument, this book is best read in instalments. Entertaining enough, but at times the content seemed shoehorned into the central theme.
didn't finish. wanted it to be more like "the English" - an imformative, social look on the culture and people. It was more pithy, short, chapters. Is this a collection of articles?
I found it difficult to buy into Gill's faux-Scotsman, outsider perspective and, over the course of the book, he struggles to maintain the brio that make his reviews so enjoyable.
I love A.A. Gill books and articles, so it wasn't a great surprise I liked this book. Similar to Bill Bryson, A.A. Gill speaks bluntly of the UK and it's people/customs
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