Stuart Maconie is known for his broadcasting on Radio 1 and for appearances connected to the Glastonbury Festival and similar events. In this book he has tried to look at some of the events that have shaped Britain over the last 100 years.
The book is a cross between a commentary of our lives and how our recent history has been shaped by them, but it also a similar book to the ones written by Bill Bryson in such titles as ‘Notes from a small island’ and so can be also classed as a travel guide.
What he has actually done is taken a date from history in every decade of the 20th Century, which gives us ten chapters in all. Taking this one date from every ten years he visits the place that is most associated with the events of the day and then expands the story to involve others areas of interest that are connected to the central story even though they might have happened in a separate decade.
To explain what I mean by this lets use for example Chapter 6. June 6th 1953. The chapter starts with Stuart in snug bar of the Pen-Y-Gwryd Hotel in Snowdonia looking at a picture hanging behind the bar of Tenzing Norgay and Edmond Hillary, as you may already have guessed the leading story involves the conquest of Everest. Besides recounting the exploits of that first ascent of Everest he links it with other events at the time like the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth on the very morning of the day that the news broke, he also recalls the celebrations that took place in this popular climbers hotel at the foot of Snowdon.
We are then taken on a railway journey to the top of Snowden on the famous Snowden mountain Railway , describing the sights as we go up as well as discussing other great climbers such as Scott and Bonington as well as Stuart’s own personal experiences following in the footsteps of Wainright in his Lakeland Fell walks.
The chapter concludes with a visit to Hayfield in Derbyshire where he retraces the exploits of a group of Mancunion ramblers who were involved in the mass trespass over the wild moorland of Derbyshire in 1896 that led to the introduction of the ‘Right to Roam Act’.
In the book Stuart visits many diverse places like: The New Wembley Stadium, Wootton Bassett, the Isle of Wight, Holmfirth, Accrington and Orgreave. Describing not only what came to pass in these places but how it changed them and what they are like now.
I enjoyed reading this book much more than I thought I would, it is witty as well as being informative and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the events that have shaped this land.