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A Beginner's Guide to Acting English

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,174 ratings  ·  138 reviews
In the tradition of Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love and Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals, comes a story of a young narrator in the midst of her eccentric family. But rather than landed gentry or bohemian travelers, it's a mad extended Iran clan who flee Tehran to 1980s Britain after the fall the Shah. Five year old Shappi and her beloved brother Peyvand arr ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 2nd 2009 by Ebury Press (first published July 1st 2009)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,174 ratings  ·  138 reviews


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Margitte
Would it sound very jejune if I say that this book was a delight, a satirical, yet heartfelt memoir? Well if it does, I do not wish to apologise, because I closed it, feeling a level of happiness and homely bonding with a family and author I will never meet, yet will leave behind as family.

Shappi Khorsandi, a well-established stand-up comedian in England, shares her family's story of being Iranian people who were forced to remain in England when the Khomeini revolution broke out. She left Iran a
...more
Lee
Feb 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: no-longer-own, 2016
The reason I wanted to read this book was because I like Shappi Khorsandi's stand-up. I find her to be a very funny and clever lady, and whilst this book can certainly attest to that, it still wasn't what I was necessarily expecting. I kind of went into this blind, and was expecting the novel to be more comedic than is actually was.

Whilst I enjoyed this book, and found what she was telling us to be very interesting, and kind of moving as well, I found the balance to be kind of off? There's a lot
...more
Lisa
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
Her stand up is hysterical and I looked forward to reading her book. But it isn't funny at all. It's dry and boring even though a family experiencing culture shock moving from Iran to England is an interesting story. I think she was too young at the time she immigrated to give it much depth.
Sarah
Aug 12, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: give-aways
Such a sweet read...with lots of yumy food
That's the first thing I thought of after finishing the book XD

It's a very interesting read.
The childhood memories took more than half of the book. And it was soo cute,funny,and sad at some points...

Then came the Teenage years, and for my disappointment, they weren't long enough to show how the Author copped up with things like the childhood part!!!

And all of a sudden Adulthood came, with new begingings...like the Author want to wrap it up quickly and g
...more
Geoffrey
May 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, biography
Coming from a stand up comedian, I was expecting this to be a funny book. There are parts that are amusing, but overall, this is a very personal, thoughtful examination of growing up in exile after the Iranian Revolution. I was expecting something light and instead found myself completely wrapped up in the life of one little girl in London.

The story itself is told from the perspective of Shappi Khorsandi as a child and Ms. Khorsandi does capture the voices of herself at different ages quite nice
...more
Laurie Drew
May 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved it. I've seen the author on talk shows a few times and she was so funny but kind of dry so I thought I would enjoy her book and I absolutely loved it. This is such a funny, touching story or an Iranian family moving to the UK and hiding from the Ayatollah. Give yourself a whole weekend to read this because you just don't want to put it down. You end up very invested in the people she is writing about. I'll probably end up giving this as gifts at Christmas, that is how much I enjoy it and ...more
Irene
May 28, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
A cliche, but apropos in this case--I didn't get any closure. 99% of the book narrated by young child with no insight--boring at such length, and when not used as a literary technique. Although their lives were apparently in great danger, the frightening aspect of it just got lost for me among the stories of who throws rotten apples at who, who is her current best friend, etc.

No insight from the young, or older, adult. The end was rushed and vacuous.

I didn't know she is a comedian, and you would
...more
Ana
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction
Really enjoyable book about growing up away from home...and creating a new home abroad. This book and Persepolis are really the extent of my knowledge of Iran (beyond the news of course), but they've both definitely sparked a need to know more. How western influence decades ago created the quagmire we find ourselves in today with Iran. But more than that, this is just a great, funny, and touching book about what it's like for a wee girl to be uprooted from almost all those she loves and taken to ...more
Zen Cho
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really loved this, much more than I expected to. I kind of picked it up on a whim, and because I'd seen and quite liked some of Shappi Khorsandi's stand-up, but it was more touching and less jokey than I thought it would be. And I just really love stories about what it's like to be a child -- I feel I have forgotten, I'm not one of those adults who's really good at remembering what it's like to be a kid and gets kids, but I guess I spent so much of my childhood reading books about being a kid ...more
B
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011, biography
After seeing Shappi Khorsandi interviewed on a talk show to promote her book I was expecting the same whimsical tone I experienced watching the interview. There were moments of realization while learning a second culture that caused grins however the political undertones the parents were experiencing were much heavier. This heaviness outweighed the lightness of a story told by a child.

The childhood portion was extensive while the teen to adult years seemed to skim the surface leaving many thing
...more
Allie Fellows
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up
I struggled on with this book hoping it would get better. Part childhood memoir part political history of the events in Iran in the 1970s through the eyes of family members. This book doesnt quite make it in either. It has its moments but the "amusing" childhood anecdotes are not quite amusing or entertaining enough and the sections describing events in Iran whilst sometimes poignant feel somehow contrived. I kept feeling this juxtaposition should work but for me it didnt. A near miss.
Sarah
Touchingly and endearingly written about Shappi’s growing up amongst extended blood relations in Tehran and then amongst adopted relations in London, this is the kind of immigrant-experience memoir you don’t see very often. Alternating between the hilarious, the banal and the devastating, Shappi’s childhood is like any other, except that she is the daughter of world-famous political dissident who made an enemy of an Islamic tyranny. Highly recommended.
Pam
Aug 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book, thinking it would be a good, light-hearted and fun holiday read...it was, but it was more than that.

I felt like the author-a comedienne whose work I greatly admire-shared many facets of her existence with us in writing this book. Who could feel anything less than privileged in that situation?
Faith
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended by a friend and I enjoyed it from the first paragraph. It was really funny yet poignant too describing the Iran Iraq war from a personal perspective. You really got to know Shap the protagonist and loved finding out about her life. It was very heartwarming and also hilarious, laugh out loud in places. A good read.
Rania T
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book's saving grace could have been better editing, as I spent practically every chapter reading about Shappi's parents and their dinner parties, and it did not go deeper than that, which is a shame unfortunately. What could have been a much better book, ended up mediocre at best.
Stephanie
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and enjoyable read. I was expecting to be entertained, but I ended up knowing more than I ever expected about the Iranian revolution.
Mollie
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a really funny book. It was about this little girls life with her disfunctional family. and even though it wasnt exactly action packed i still found it very enjoyable
Diocletian
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good opening hook: an infant eating the goo out of her snotty nose and flashing her knickers at the author. Very easy to read and entertaining. I liked learning about Iranian culture and history, which I knew next to nothing about and there was comic relief throughout, dealing with the heavier subjects. One of my favorite bits is when Shappi's grandma asks her why baby Jesus was gifted a lamb. She offered "Was it to make kebabs?" - in true Irooni style.

This book could have done with a family t
...more
James
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: society
I ought to make clear at the outset that the childhood memoir is not a favourite genre of mine, but at the same time, this did not do much to change that mindset, even if it did have its moments.

I first heard of this on Richard Herring's podcast RHLSTP, and Shappi Khorsandi's brief assessment was that she was proud of the book, but hated the title. And I can understand why; it's not so much that it's a bit corny (and like many throwaway, cutesy titles) but that it doesn't really cover the subjec
...more
Amanda
Mar 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Another book that had long been sitting on my bookshelf and I hadn't bothered to read. A Beginner's Guide to Acting English presents a young life divided between and navigating two distinct cultures, but unexpectedly does so with humor and tenderness. Khorsandi illustrates her childhood musings and experiences with candor and naivete, allowing the reader access to intimate moments of her formative years growing up in England after arriving from Iran.

The book's strengths lie in Khorsandi's affec
...more
David Frew
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
An interesting description of what it was like to be a refugee arriving in London with no English and a family likely to be targeted by a foreign (Iran) regime. Although written by a comedian and reported as a "humorous" book, I found it quite sad. It was generally written with a funny attitude but I had enormous sympathy for Shappi with all the trouble she went through.
I would recommend it to anyone who doesn't think the UK should offer sanctuary to refugees. We should and these people will be
...more
Swirlgirl
Nov 23, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The only line that made me snicker in this entire book was on page 276 "Aziz, why do you have skewers in your car?".

I had expected a fun but insightful book, but it's poorly written and lacks a compelling structure or even like... Interesting anecdotes. It's like reading a nine-year-old's diary, it's choppy and delivered with no reflection, interspersed with the odd paragraphs from other family members and other timelines.. for context, I guess? I struggled through it. Would not recommend.
Anita
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I simply loved this book, a child's perspective on growing up in a strange country after leaving family and their home in Iran. We are all inclined to accept our own cultural references as the norm, while other cultures show us different ways to look at the world. I laughed out loud when Shappi asked a friend's mom for ten fish fingers for lunch, because fish fingers must be really small! A delightful read.
Amanda Anthony
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have to admit I started this book expecting it to be a work of fiction. But as soon as I started, I realized it was her story of integrating into a very different society than that which she knew. I appreciated how she addressed the differences so frankly and funnily! Immigrant stories have lately become one of my favorite genres and this was very well done.
Sarah Nosworthy
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyable, and only on finishing it, did I find out or realise she's a comedian, doing standup and with YouTube I got to see how funny she is, and how she's clearly a British immigrant kid (ie her accent is 100% English!) A great read!
Crosspatch64
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A funny insightful book that explores the culture clash of moving from Iran to England. Some of the memories must have been told to Shappi by her family as she would be too young to remember them herself
Alexandra Speirs
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very good
I have only one complaint to make, this is something that really annoys me:
very often she writes "my brother and I" when it should be "my brother and me".
It's really very easy:
My brother and I - when they are the subject of the verb
My brother and me - when they are the object
Mycah
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fun, witty, eye opening

This book was brilliant. Shaparak does a wonderful job describing her childhood as an immigrant and, then, refugee in a way that allows the reader to understand her feelings and thoughts. I definitely recommend this book to my friends.
Kristy Brown
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fabulous insight into life as a child caught up in the politics of Iran. I loved reading about learning to understand the English culture. Especially as I work with children who may sometimes feel this way.
Very easy to read.
Pandit
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this quaint, and touching, description of a decent stand-up comedian from Iran, who had to navigate the ways of the English. Told with humour.
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Shaparak "Shappi" Khorsandi (born 8 June 1973) is an Iranian-born British comedian.

The daughter of Hadi Khorsandi, her family was forced to flee from Iran to London after the Islamic Revolution following the publication of a satirical poem her father composed. The poem was perceived as being critical of the revolutionary regime. Shappi was raised without any religion.
Khorsandi graduated from the U
...more

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