\”Britannia in Brief\” by Leslie Banker (the resident American) and William Mullins (the pond-hopping Brit) is like a Book of Lists for Anglophiles with bonus historical and cultural tidbits thrown in. As such, it provides excellent material for anyone planning to visit, move to, or simply think about the UK.
The text is concise, easy to read and packed with useful and interesting information. The opening pages provide an entertaining historical summary of Britain (no mean feat in itself) and are followed by some uniquely presented qualities and quirks of Britain and the British. I especially liked the geographical analogies on page 27, which equates unfamiliar British locations with locations more familiar to an American audience, a device they make good use of throughout the text.
Also in this eclectic collection, you\’ll find a brief list of what to eat with a knife and fork as opposed to your fingers, a guide to pub etiquette, a thorough overview of the transportation system, a rundown of notable British criminals and a few of the more popular euphemisms for \”penis\” employed by the British public. Really, what\’s not to like? Actually, in looking over the table of contents, it\’s hard to think of any aspect of British culture, history, society, sports or leisure pursuits (such as rioting in the streets) this pair has overlooked.
\”Britannia in Brief\” is, without question, for an American audience, but it will surely leave even the most casual Britophile chuffed to bits, and would even be of interest to trivia Anoraks who simply like to collect odd facts (such as \”ysbyty\” being the Welsh word for \”hospital\”) in case they ever find themselves at a pub quiz.
And speaking of, nearly ever section ends with quiz that you can use to test your growing knowledge of all things British. I understand it can\’t be used as a substitute for the \”Life in the UK Test,\” but it\’s not a bad place to start.