Take it as read

I’ve gone through a couple of books recently.

One was One Hundred Years of Solitude. I knew going in that this was a universally-acclaimed masterwork by Gabriel García Marquez. I felt it, too, as I read it: the way he spun his magic tale as if it were normal happenstance, the secrets, the themes of family and societal influences and tragedy, were all exceedingly well done. But I just didn’t feel that I engaged with it one hundred per cent. I found it difficult to care, and a bit overstuffed. I recognised the superb craft, but it’s just not the type of book I prefer, I guess.

The other was Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour. It was a light, but entertaining and convincing, examination of the common threads behind why the English act the way they do. Smartly, the author (an anthropologist) doesn’t try to claim that they’re different from any other humans, just that the degrees and proportions of characteristics are unique. It explains why they’re polite, why they drink so much, why they’re private, why they joke about everything, their attitude to food, their sense of fairness, and a lot more. Funny if you’re English, or know the English well.