In Search of England, By Roy Hattersley

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The Independent Culture

At first glance, this book might appear to be an exception to this reviewer's opinion that yellowing columns of journalism should never be published in book form. Hattersley has had enough experience of writing – 20 volumes of Hattersleiana are listed (including two diaries allegedly penned by his dog) – and his opinions are sound but his observations are obscured by great clouds of words.

The objects of his attention disappear beneath endless, meandering sentences. This is strangely lifeless prose, bereft of telling detail, verbal fireworks or illuminating wit.

Only a handful of the pieces reprinted here contain the quoted speech of anyone he meets. Whether we are in Westminster, Blackpool, the Peak District or Sheffield, all we seem to meet is Hattersley.