St George: Let's Hear it for England! by Alison Maloney

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St George: Let's Hear it for England! by Alison Maloney

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Category: Biography
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: A well-researched and informative book. The presentation of the information in both terms of style and quality of writing leaves something to be desired for older readers, but set it perfectly for younger ones.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Preface Publishing
ISBN: 978-1848092624

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I was a bit of a patriot, even when it wasn't as fashionable as it is now becoming. Perhaps this is due to my once having played St. George in a Cub Scout celebration and getting the chance to personally slay the dragon in knitted chain mail with a plastic sword. In a world where being English has become synonymous with football violence and the flag of St. George is being used by a political party condemned as racist, it's perhaps unsurprising that more people celebrate St. Patrick's Day than St. George's Day.

In St. George: Let's Hear it for England, Alison Maloney takes us through the history of our patron saint. This is a bit of an undertaking, as there are many different histories out there. He could have been a Roman soldier born in Turkey who never set foot in England, or he could have been from Coventry. The dragon he fought could have been actual or metaphorical and the princess he rescued could have been Libyan or Egyptian.

Maloney doesn't just cover the life and death of St. George, but tracks how his popularity has waxed and waned through the years and under various monarchs and dominant religions in England. His impact on our flag, our sporting nation and how art and literature have presented St. George and his legend are also looked at. It seems it is not only England that lays claim to St. George as a patron saint and his legend in other countries is explored.

In terms of the range of content here, Maloney has certainly done her research well. By the end of the book, there wasn't anything I could think of that may have been missing from the St. George story and I knew an awful lot more about him than when I'd started. The problem I had with the book was not in the information it contained, but in the way that information was presented.

The book is written in small, easily digestible chunks. Whilst this does make it easy to dip in and out of, it does rather disrupt the flow of the book. These chunks do not always seem to be presented in a terribly logical order, which caused me a few slightly confused moments. Perhaps due to the nature of the stories written about St. George, there did also seem to be times where information appeared to be repeated or rephrased in various sections.

There were also a couple of brief paragraphs that seemed to have been positioned totally out of place, as if there wasn't enough similar information for them to be worthy of a chapter of their own, but having found the information, Maloney didn't want to waste it by leaving it out. Admittedly, these sections are boxed off to signify that they are intended to be separate, but the sudden changes of direction that having them there resulted in was slightly distracting.

One advantage the book does have is that it's very simply written. In many ways, with the presentation and the use of language, it feels like a St. George annual as opposed to a traditional biography. This makes it perfect for dipping in and out of and it's the kind of biography that seems suited to those people who claim they don't read.

For readers of biographies and history books, this is likely to be far too light and lacking in real substance to appeal, although there is a well-written introduction on Englishness by Boris Johnson. However, for those who want to know more about our patron saint, but don't want a huge level of detail or a long history lesson, this is ideal. What is apparent is that The Scout movement has been perhaps the most loyal to St. George as a patron throughout the years and this book is perfect for younger members of that organisation – the Cubs or Brownies – to find out more about theirs and England's patron. However, that's not to say that their parents, like myself, won't pick up some new and interesting facts along the way.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Younger readers who like the dragon slaying myth may also enjoy Jason Hightman's The Saint of Dragons; Samurai.

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