Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sorry! The English and Their Manners


Today’s Nonfiction post is on Sorry! The English and Their Manners by Henry Hitchings. It is 392 pages long including notes, bibliography, and index. It is published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. The cover is a table set with different kinds of silver and dishware. There is some strong language, talk of sex, and no violence in this book. The intended reader is someone who is interested in the way that manners have developed over the centuries. The tone is academic but readable. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- Most of us know a bit about what passes for good manners- holding doors open, sending thank-you notes, no elbows on the table- and we certainly know bad manners when we see them. But where has this patchwork of beliefs and behaviors come from? How did manners develop? How do they change? And why do they matter so much? In examining his countrymen’s manners, Henry Hitchings delves into the English character and investigates what it means to be English.
Sorry! presents an amusing, illuminating, and quirky audit of English manners. From basic table manners to appropriate sexual conduct, via hospitality, chivalry, faux pas, and online etiquette, Hitchings traces the history of England’s customs and courtesies. Putting some of the most astute observers of humanity- including Jane Austen and Samuel Pepys- under the microscope, he uses their lives and writings to pry open the often downright peculiar secrets of Englishness. Hitchings’s blend of history, anthropology, and personal journey helps us understand the bizarre and contested cultural baggage that that is bundled with our understanding of what it means to have good manners.

Review- This is an amusing and interesting about the history and current state of manners. Hitchings starts the reader in modern day with some interactions of two tennis stars and how they behaved. Then he moves us from the beginning of written word with how manners started and delivers us back to modern day. Hitchings is engaged and engaging with this subject. This could have been a very boring book but it is not. It is funny, interesting, and a little sad with all the information about how manners and the people who use them have evolved over the course of history. Instead of dry and boring quotes Hitchings gives real stories from over the course of time. Famous people have had a lot to say about how young people, poor people, and people in general act. I had to read some parts of this book to my spouse to he could laugh too. I highly recommend this book.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.