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The Most Beautiful Villages of England
The Most Beautiful Villages of England

Clustered around its parish church and green, or strung out along a curving road, the English village often seems the very embodiment of tranquillity. Winding lanes, thatched cottages, and red-brick Georgian houses bespeak a way of life that has developed peacefully over centuries, uninterrupted by war or invasion. Yet, the occasional castle or fortified manor house bears testimony to a more turbulent past, and it should not be forgotten that the style of many village churches--Romanesque or Norman--was originally borne across the English Channel on the wave of conquest. Each English village possesses its own distinct character, formed by history, location, and, indeed, local building materials. There is a world of difference between the dark-stone villages of the north and the Pennines and the thatched, half-timbered architecture of East Anglian and southern communities. Village forms and layout differ widely too. Eton, in Berkshire, is arranged along a high street and centered on a famous college. The Dorset village of Cerne Abbas is dominated by the figure of a naked, priapic giant, carved into a hillside some 1,500 years ago. In Hawkshead, Cumbria, it is still possible to visit the school attended by William Wordsworth; in Mevagissey, Cornwall, the delights of a Cornish shipping village remain virtually intact. The richness and diversity of the English village are celebrated here in absorbing commentary and magnificent photography by James Bentley and Hugh Palmer. Grouped by area and subdivided by county--northern, midland, eastern, southern, and western--this splendid volume describes and illustrates the most beautiful villages and that most beautiful of lands--"this earth, this Realm"--this England.

Victoria - The Heart of England
Victoria - The Heart of England
Much more than a traditional travel guide, Victoria The Heart of England speaks with an insider's voice to reveal what's truly the best about England. Instead of where to go, where to stay, where to eat, the book reflects a much more personal portrait of England, and of the English. Victoria The Heart of England is organized around four themes that are important to England and its culture: tradition, wit, romance, and pride. The tradition section, for example, includes information on pewter, England's island heritage - "The Gift of the Sea" ( and the etiquette of port. The section on romance highlights the Brontes, an English cottage garden, and an Englishwoman's retreat. This book helps readers get to know England so that when they do visit, they truly will experience England at her best, rather than just visiting the usual tourist haunts. After whetting readers' appetites for a trip to England, the book delivers even more: itineraries and a gazetteer, to provide practical help and advice for planning a visit. And because it's such a delightful read, armchair travelers can have almost as much fun as those who visit England in person.

England England
England, England

Imagine being able to visit all of England in a single weekend. The Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Stonehenge and Hadrian's Wall, Harrods, Manchester United Football Club, the Tower of London, and even the Royal Family all within easy distance of the each other, accessible, and, best of all, each one living up to an idealized version of itself.

This fantasy Britain is the very real (and some would say very cynical) vision of Sir Jack Pitman, a monumentally egomaniacal mogul with a more than passing resemblance to modern-day buccaneers Sir Rupert Murdoch or Robert Maxwell: "'We are not talking theme park,' he began. 'We are not talking heritage centre. We are not talking Disneyland, World's Fair, Festival of Britain, Legoland or Parc Asterix.'" No indeed; Sir Jack proposes nothing less than to offer "the thing itself," a re-creation of everything that adds up to England in the hearts and minds of tourists looking for an "authentic" experience. But where to locate such an enterprise? As Sir Jack points out, England, as the mighty William and many others have observed, is an island. Therefore, if we are serious, if we are seeking to offer the thing itself, we in turn must go in search of a precious whatsit set in a silver doodah. Soon the perfect whatsit is found: the Isle of Wight; and a small army of Sir Jack's forces are sent to lay siege to it. Swept up in the mayhem are Martha Cochrane, a thirty-something consultant teetering on the verge of embittered middle age, and Paul Harrison, a younger man looking for an anchor in the world. The two first find each other, then trip over a skeleton in Sir Jack's closet that might prove useful to their careers but disastrous to their relationship. In the course of constructing this mad package-tour dystopia, Julian Barnes has a terrific time skewering postmodernism, the British, the press, the government, celebrity, and big business. At the same time his very funny novel offers a provocative meditation on the nature of identity, both individual and national, as the lines between the replica and the thing itself begin to blur. Readers of Barnes have learned to expect the unexpected, and once again he more than lives up to the promise in England, England. But then, that was only to be expected.

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