I Should Know That - Great Britain by Emma Marriott

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I Should Know That - Great Britain by Emma Marriott

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Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A great summary of politics, society, history and geography of Great Britain. All the things you may have forgotten…or forgot to learn in the first place. Ooops.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Michael O'Mara Books Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1782434313

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I am a dreadful Brit. I'm better at the geography of Colombia than the UK (true story, I had to google where Essex was the other day). I'd rather eat Mexican food than anything native to this island. Nine out of ten of the TV shows I watch are made in the USA. I feel little national pride when England win at football (it's not like I was playing for the team) or bring home medals from the Olympics (again, they're not hanging in my trophy room). Despite 17 years of full time education in the UK, I probably wouldn't pass a simple citizenship test. Which is a little embarrassing, really. So when this book came up for review I thought I'd have it, both for interest and as a subtle way to brush up on my Britain.

Immediately the cover made me feel a little better. Everything you really should know about GB it says. See that should know as in should…but probably don't. It wasn't just me. I cracked the cover and was relieved to see this wasn't a purely historical text. Sure, there's a section on history but also geography, society, the legal system, even a little on culture. This book is not long and it covers a lot, but is still manages to go into a surprising amount of detail on the topics. Because after all you probably do already know most of the highlights, but it's a lot of the minutiae that I had either forgotten or, perhaps worse, forgotten to learn in the first place.

My source of British knowledge (the things I do know) came from a mix of sources. I remember learning at Brownies which way up the Union Jack should be flown. Maybe if Gordon Brown has been a Brownie the faux pas detailed on page 16 would not have occurred. That's something I really enjoyed about this book – the snippets and quotes that are scattered among the facts, showing you when people got it wrong. After all you can't feel too bad not knowing who wrote Rule Britannia when the PM, asked on live television, got it wrong. While I was glad the whole book wasn't one long history lesson, I appreciated the whirlwind tour of the past, because sometimes you know things in your mind but can't quite put them in chronological order. The book is incredibly up to date, taking us up until this year's election though falling short of mentioning HRH Queen Elizabeth's record of longest reigning monarch (to be fair…I was reading this book on a plane to Africa the week before that happened, so the omission is understandable).

The geography section celebrates the vast diversity of the country from national parks to regional accents, and this was probably the one section I didn't learn as much from, already being unfortunately very familiar with Scousers (joke). In Society we learn about the education system with some benchmarks thrown in for good measure, like the fact that while only 7% of the population go to private school, about 50% of the current government did. Over-representation, or understandable – discuss.

From the Government section I learnt more about the House of Commons to supplement my existing first-hand knowledge (they serve very nice éclairs when you go to ministerial receptions there) and in Culture I enjoyed the recollection of a conversation with Agatha Christie about the expected (short) lifespan of The Mousetrap.

In short, the book entertained me (and educated me) from start to finish. It's an incredibly accessible reference book because the paragraphs are short and punchy and there's lots of 'fun' put in there alongside the facts. I certainly feel like a better Brit because of reading it, and I'll be keeping it on the shelf to read again in the future, because it's somehow more satisfying to read a book like this on a variety of topics than look each of them up in turn on line.

I'd like to thank the publishers for supplying this book. It was well worth my time. One area it doesn't really touch on is British cuisine. Not surprising, you might think, but if you are interested then Food Britannia by Andrew Webb can help fill you in a little.

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Buy I Should Know That - Great Britain by Emma Marriott at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Should Know That - Great Britain by Emma Marriott at Amazon.com.


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