The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British
by Sarah Lyall


W.W. Norton & Company Inc, 2008. ISBN 978-0-393-05846-8.
Reviewed by Jennifer Melville
Posted on 03/16/2009

Nonfiction: Cultural/Gender Focus

"Even in the twenty-first century," writes journalist Sarah Lyall in her book The Anglo Files, "many British people still ride the subway during the evening rush hour without benefit of deodorant. Their nursery-rhyme spider is incy-wincy, not itsy-bitsy. When they sneeze, they say "ah-tishoo," not "ah-choo." They have something called salad cream, a squirtable mayonnaise product that can be slathered on their food to obscure its unpalatability. When they do the dishes, they appear to believe that the part where you are supposed to rinse off the soap is optional." Seriously, how can you read that and not be dying to know the interesting facts that fill the rest of the book?

Sarah Lyall is an American who married a Brit and moved to London. She wrote this book about England from an American perspective and it is absolutely brilliant! She covers everything from the strange British euphemisms when it comes to talking about (or avoiding talking about) sex, the brawls and blatant sexism that take place in the House of Commons, alcoholism, belittling oneself, the dawn of customer service in a land known for its lack of personalized care, and even the truth behind the country's famous atrocious dental hygiene.

I'll be honest: I love everything British. I couldn't help but grab this book off the library shelf and I'm glad I did. The Anglo Files was a nonstop ride of laughter and shock. Lyall's descriptions of her experiences are so vivid it feels as if the reader is right there in the action. This is one nonfiction book I just couldn't put down. I loved it!


Sarah Lyall grew up in New York City and is a London correspondent for the New York Times. She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. This is her first book. Visit her website.

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