BOOKS CHECKED OUT | By JANET CLAPP
The recent news about the royal baby and the British parliamentary elections captivated the attention of many Americans. There is some logic to this. After all, nearly 250 years ago the majority of colonists on this continent came from England. Today the United States shares a special relationship with Britain. Whether you have visited England, wish to learn its history, are planning a trip there, or just feel like taking an armchair voyage with your cup of tea, here are some titles to consider.
Royal Affairs: A Lusty Romp Through the Extramarital Adventures that Rocked the British Monarchy
By Leslie Carroll
Forget the dates and royal names you learned in high school, here is the scoop on the illicit romances of Britain’s rulers. “Americans, in particular, enjoy a collective love affair with monarchies — probably because we don’t have one, and can sanctimoniously feel superior to those benighted blighters who God and birthright have placed above the peons of their respective nations, yet who still manage to be more than human.” Carroll takes us all the way back to Henry II who ruled 1154-1189. “Henry was a notorious ladies’ man, but his affair with Rosamund turned out to be much more than a passing fancy. In fact, she was considered his ‘Grand Passion.’” The book concludes with Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla Parker Bowles.
Daily Life in Victorian England
By Sally Mitchell
The Victorian era was a time of great change, from agrarian to industrial society. Mitchell provides the social history — “how people lived and acted and spent their time, what they ate and wore and cared about” — of England between 1837-1901. “The most popular commercial entertainment of the late nineteenth century was music hall. Most of the audience were men from the working and lower middle class….For people in the upper class, the opera was a feature of London’s social season.” For more about English life during a different time period, check out “Daily Life in Elizabethan England” by Jeffrey L. Singman.
A Traveller’s History of England”
By Christopher Daniell
This short book outlines England’s history, from the formation of the British Isles, through the arrival of Christianity, to the Gulf War. There is a lot of material to cover in about 250 pages so this is a mere overview of what is known: “The American War of Independence had resulted in a national debt of ₤243 million, unstable political groupings and depression,” and what is not: “Despite many theories, no satisfactory explanation has been given as to why Stonehenge was built.”
Old English Villages
By Clay Perry, Ann Gore and Laurence Fleming
Photographs of quaint English homes, buildings, cemeteries and vistas comprise the bulk of this scenic book. “Perhaps at no time in its long history has the English village been quite like this, it is only the reflection, the romantic recollection, the village of Christmas cards, calendars and advertisements for beer. But the dream-village nevertheless lies close to the surface of the English mind; to live in a village in the calm of the English countryside is, for many, the ambition of their lives.”
London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets
By Peter Ackroyd
This little book is about the lesser-known tunnels and underground world beneath the great city of London. “Like the nerves within the human body, the underworld controls the life of the surface.…The underworld is haphazard and wayward, with many abandoned passages and vast tunnels of brick leading nowhere.…It is an unknown world. It is not mapped in its entirety. It cannot be seen clearly or as a whole.” For those interested in the metropolis above ground, Ackroyd wrote a tome about London, aptly titled “London: The Biography.”
Fodor’s 2015 England and England (Lonely Planet).
There are numerous print guidebooks to help travelers plan their vacation to England. Both Fodor’s and Lonely Planet travel guides are chock full of maps, tips, and descriptions of lodging, dining and destinations around the country. Both highlight interesting topics, such as Fodor’s page about classic English desserts; “pudding” actually means dessert rather than solely referring to the gooey dish Americans call pudding. Lonely Planet has a section about traveling with children and is more likely to include reviews of hostels. After consulting these volumes, all you need to do is pack your suitcase!
The Rutland Free Library has the titles mentioned above as well as many others about travel to and history of Great Britain.
Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.