Title: Clarissa’s England
Author: Clarissa Dickson Wright
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: September 20th, 2012
Length: 288 pages | 14 hours 22 minutes
The quintessential Englishwoman Clarissa Dickson Wright takes us on a personal journey through the country of her birth.
From Cornwall to Cumbria, Norfolk to Northumbria she brings her extraordinary knowledge, huge passion, forthright opinions and inimitable wit to the distinctive history and regional character of every corner of England. In her cornucopia of local knowledge she reveals, for example, how Boudicca was the original Essex girl, that Lincolnshire has a coriander crop second only in size to India’s, and just why a Cornish pasty should never contain carrots.
In preparation for our upcoming honeymoon to the UK, I wanted to read a nontraditional travel book about the area. Fedora and I won’t be hitting the tourist spots, but I’m uncomfortable with the ideas of “let’s just drive around until we stumble upon something pretty”. By a stroke of luck, I had gifted this book to Fedora two years ago- he’s a huge fan of Two Fat Ladies (which I have a feeling we’ll be rewatching after the honeymoon) and we have all of Clarissa’s and Jennifer’s cookbooks as well. So I gave it a go.
In terms of a travel book about the English countryside, this definitely hit the spot. Clarissa talked about counties I recognized from history (and fiction!) as well as counties I’d never heard of. And while she does tread lightly in the areas she hasn’t spent much time in, she says a little something historic about all of them, and highlights the most interesting towns within that county. Most of her mentioned history has to do with cathedrals, saints, and religion, but she also goes quite a bit into the wars of several ages in that country. There’s a fair bit of humor, too. The bits I could have done without are her near-constant mention of hunting. I recognize this is the context of her experience of the country, and I’m not anti-hunting (when done sustainably), but I’m so distanced from it that it felt exclusionary to read about all these things *I* have no context for. Mostly I felt that annoyance during her mentions of “the antis” and how they loathe her.
Clarissa is definitely a well-traveled woman with some fascinating knowledge. And as a result of reading her book, I added fourteen new places to check out while we’re over there (I have no illusions that we’ll see them all, or even half of them, but this way I can consult the map if we’re on a ramble and near any). I do appreciate that her favorite county is York, as we’ll be spending several days there- good to know there will be plenty to see and do!
In all, I recommend this book if you’re curious about England’s countryside and want a light, brief rundown of it by one of England’s famous celebrity chefs. Yes, that does mean you’ll be reading about some mouth-watering (and some odd) things you should eat in different areas of the country.