Stuart Maconie first caught our attention back in the days when he worked as a music journalist for the NME. Over more recent years, his palatte has spread to such a degree that you are more likely to read his thoughts on the Cumbrian landscape or the manufacturing heartlands of the Midlands than you are on the latest Mogwai album. Thankfully, we still get to share his thoughts on music thanks to his ability to perfectly fit a variety of different slots across the BBC radio network.
After publishing some interesting music bios, the autobiographical “Cider with Roadies” gave a great insight to his formative years. More recently, Stuart has turned his pen to focus sharply on Britain. Specifically, what defines us, what separates us and what brings us together, all the while retaining a wonderfully uncynical ability to take huge joy from the small oddities and simple joys that illuminate his observations of the nation. “Pies and Prejudice” focused on Northern Britain, whilst “Adventures on the High Teas” covered the South.
I have recently finished reading “Hope & Glory” a book that selects one day from each decade of the twentieth century, a day that helped to mould the twenty first century Britain that we are now rapidly charging through.
Although each chapter is based around just one day, the theme of that day is skilfully expanded upon to provide an illuminating and entertaining context. There are some beautifully written passages in the book; I found the chapter on the first day of the Battle of the Somme particularly moving. There is a superb chapter on the impact on British culture of the Empire Windrush and the bold passengers who came in search of a new life. Maconie skilfully links the events of that epic journey to the Britain that we have today. That is the great strength of this captivating piece of social history. Maconie’s informative and entertaining style kept pulling me into subjects of which I previously only had a passing knowledge.
From Punks to Suffragettes, Footballers to Strikers (not of the Geoff Hurst variety!), this excellent book easily joins the dots of our recent history. Should you find yourself looking for some post Christmas reading, this would be an excellent use of those book tokens that may head your way.