In 1996 Sarah Lyall, a New York Times reporter, left behind her American roots and moved to London for love. As that newspaper's correspondent in London, she became known here for her witty and incisive dispatches from her adopted country, as she conjured with her new and eccentric countrymen. She also found herself with a ringside seat at a singular moment in British life: the roller-coaster years of Tony Blair's New Labour had inaugurated a battle between the old world of aristocratic privilege and a new world of modern meritocracy.
In A Field Guide to the British, Lyall strides her way readably, eloquently and perceptively across the social, political and cultural landscape of contemporary Britain. In a narrative studded with memorable anecdote and rich in humour, she explores themes as diverse as peers, politics, the media, understatement, the weather, and Britain's relationship with animals, alcohol and sex. She ponders such matters as the missing link between the famous British reserve and the famous British hooliganism (could it possibly be binge drinking?); how any parliamentary motion is ever passed when the Commons act like naughty schoolboys and the Lords spend two days debating UFOs; and the age-old question of how anyone could possibly enjoy a game as tedious as cricket.
A Field Guide to the British is an impressively wide-ranging survey of contemporary British mores from a writer blessed with acute powers of observation and a fluent and readable writing style. Seeing ourselves through Lyall's eyes is sometimes embarrassing, often revelatory - but always very funny. Wry, insightful and engaging, A Field Guide to the British is permeated with a deep affection for its author's adopted country and an unerring eye for its oddities and eccentricities. It is required reading for Anglophiles and Anglophobes on both sides of the Atlantic.