Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Pies and Prejudice

Title: Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North

Author: Stuart Maconie

Number of pages: 338

Started: 21 May 2008

Finished: 28 May 2008

Opening words:

A few years ago, I was standing in my kitchen, rustling up a Sunday brunch for some very hungover, very northern mates who were ‘down’ for the weekend. One of them was helping me out, finding essential ingredients like paracetamol and orange juice, and asked me, ‘Where are the sun-dried- tomatoes?’

‘They’re nest to the cappuccino maker’ I replied.

A ghastly pregnant silence fell. Slowly, we turned to meet each other’s gaze. We didn’t say anything. We didn’t need to. Each read the other’s unspoken thought; we had changed. We had become the kind of people who rustled up brunch on Sundays, passed around sections of the Sunday papers, popped down to little bakeries; the kind of people who had sun-dried tomatoes and cappuccino makers.

Southerners, I suppose

Plot summary:

A Northerner in exile, Stuart Maconie goes on a journey in search of the North, attempting to discover where the cliches end and the truth begins. He travels from Wigan Pier to Blackpool Tower and Newcastle's Bigg Market to the Lake District to find his own Northern Soul, encountering along the way an exotic cast of chippy Scousers, pie-eating woollybacks, topless Geordies, mad-for-it Mancs, Yorkshire nationalists and brothers in southern exile.

Summary taken from Amazon

What I thought:

Hmm… what to say about this book. I was not a massive fan. I am quite happy to admit that I am probably an ignorant Southerner, but this book didn’t do a lot to educate me. I thought it was full of stereotypes – of both Northerners and Southerners. All Southerners appeared to be Tory voting snobs and Northerners wee “decent folk”.

My main conclusion from the book was that there are similarities and differences all across the country – and that actually it was too narrow a view to try and sum up the people of any particular city or place as being like this or that. Stuart Maconie may well have ended up loving the north, but he did it in a way that was at other people’s expense (and not just that of Southerners), which is never my type of humour. I wish the book had been more of a celebration in its own right rather than having to demean others. I think we’re big enough and brave enough as a country to admit our faults and celebrate our successes together. Oh and on the last page, he gave a treatise on the north and misnamed a song (he called it “The NIRA” when it was “The NWRA”), which rather killed the point of what he was saying. Oops.

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