I received a signed copy of Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy from Willoughby Book Club‘s wonderful book subscription service. As with many of the books I get from them, I had never heard of Meeting the English but it was another example of the types of books I want to be reading to expand my knowledge of contemporary British fiction now that I’m living in these fair Isles. It was nominated for the Costa First Novel Award, an award that truly identifies books I love.
In the novel young Struan Robertson, from a small village in Scotland, finds himself as the primary caregiver to Phillip Prys, a famous London author, after he has suffered a massive stroke. Not surprisingly there is a clash of cultures. Struan is in awe of Phillip’s notoriety and wealth, dismayed by his dysfunctional family and perplexed by the people around him. Overall, it is a very interesting fish-out-of-water story that I found humorous and touching.
I was surprised by how much I liked Meeting the English. Phillip’s relationship with his family hit rather close to home for me. Let’s just say there are certain parallels. For that reason alone, I never would have picked up this book on my own. But I loved Struan’s character development and his relationship with Phillip and his family. It made me understand why some people are better suited for care-giving than others.
Who would like this book? Meeting the English was a crackin’ read. Because the main character was Scottish, it highlighted everything that is so very English about the English, and in a very funny way. It also fit in very nicely with much of the British literature set in London that I’ve been reading lately. Some of it was very reminiscent of Nina Stibbe’s memoir Love, Nina (review) while maintaining it’s own distinctive narrative curve.