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Unofficial Britain

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Member Reviews

I really enjoyed this book and feel I learned a lot about Britain's fringes and recommended to any interested in the same.
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I requested this as I am trying to read more non- fiction,

I thought this was an interesting look at the landscape of Britain and local landmarks.
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Smooth read considering that it is a book of facts. A good travelling companion that celebrates local landmarks.
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Perfect for the traveller wanting to visit places off the beaten path. Why holiday around the world when you can holiday in your own country - when the lockdown is finally over! Until then we can read about the places we'd like to visit.
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Very good book, love all the information and I love how smooth of a read it is. The pictures are a nice addition and I like that I can visualize what you are talking about without being there.
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Thank you to NetGalley for letting me read this. 

Gareth Rees explores the back of buildings, the liminal spaces, the edges of car parks, the maze of underpasses. He's looking for embryonic mythology, for fresh, new, growing folklore. And he finds it. 

if you're interested in that sort of thing (and you should be), this is a fascinating read. He pulls together old stories and new ones, meets some urban shamen and city druids, and looks at how the stories we tell now reflect and riff on old old stories. It's as if humans have an urge to create meaning in their environment, and will bend that environment to take on the  meaning that they need. 

I enjoyed it very much.
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An excellent and well written books that helped me to discover new places and appreciate new to me places.
It's well researched and engrossing.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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A well-written and fascinating look at the landscape of Britain beyond the expected--a celebration of the local landmarks and overlooked structures that define our communities.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Elliott & Thompson for a review copy of this book. 

This was a fun take on normal sights we see in Britain. 

Reading reviews has signposted me to the fact this was a website set up in 2014 which detailed the 'mundane' and gave interesting spins on it. 

Enjoyable.
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Ian Sinclair psychogeography babble, the section on pylons was  interesting, unlike the M6 and industrial estates.   The doggerel in italics at the end of each chapter, did mean that I knew when a chapter as ending....
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Unofficial Britain by Gareth E Rees

Rating  4 / 5 Stars

Publication Date - 9/17/2020

** Thank you to Netgalley, Elliott & Thompson, and of course, Gareth E Rees, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

After moving to the UK 2 years ago, one of the best things I have done has been exploring the parts of Britain which are often overlooked in comparison to those places we know in a global sense (cities, historical sites etc). The places explored are not the most beautiful. We often assume they are ugly, uninteresting and not worth our trip to see them. 

Rees gives these places new life. His ability to make them a beautiful piece of folklore and fiction which are a nod back to his roots as a writer of horror and weird fiction. The way he describes these locations is truly incredible.
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Unofficial Britain is a compliment of stories which Rees has posted on his website under the same title. 

His perspective of the landmarks we all see every day but with a new eye is quite refreshing, from multi story carparks, motorways to electrical pylons. It is a unique way in saying that the ordinary can be objectively extraordinary. 
 
I think this novel is a great at discovering the unusual in our everyday surroundings. A great book for someone who has read a lot and wants something new and fresh.  This is definitely a book I would get my dad for Christmas.
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Really enjoyed reading this book.,.Ive  been to London but to the usual tourist places  .This book introduced me to places people I’ would never of known about.Fun interesting informative will be recommending this book for anyone inquisitive about off the usual beat,#netgalley#unofficiallondon
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I haven't been to Britain, but have always been interested in the less known, less visited places. Too many tourists at the other! I enjoyed reading this book! I liked learning about the smaller, less traveled places and their people. I look forward to visiting one day and visiting some of these places! I think if you are planning a visit, you might want to take in a few of these sites as well as the more notable ones, to really get to know the country.
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This was truly a fascinating book covering a subject that most of us have little knowledge of so it was certainly enlightening. Like a lot of similar books, the introduction was very long and very detailed. Why this part is not simply introduced as chapter one I really don't know. It was so lengthy and intense that  there was a chance you might decide to go no further before actually reaching the start of the book. I learned a lot of very important information about our land as well as some wonderful folklore tales. It's not really a book at bedtime or even a thriller or geography book but more a journey around our country, full of facts we would, under mornal circumstances know nothing about.
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I loved this book, it wasn't what I expected, and I enjoyed it all the more for this reason.
 Gareth Rees writes with such passion and depth about his subject, and draws you in, making you think differently from the way you would have prior to reading this. Who would give a second thought to a motorway flyover, or see the social significance of a multi-story car park? 
The more I read, the more I wanted to read. His insights are fascinating, the research and the lengths he has gone to,  to get the information are amazing.
 Unofficial Britain is a book that has made me, think, wonder and has brought back memories from my childhood. I too thought that Rank Service Stations were the height of sophistication as a child, going on holiday, it was essential to stop and sit at a sticky table and eat breakfast, it wasn't the same if we just drove past! I had forgotten all about this, and the wonder of walking over the bridge and seeing the cars whizz past. 
Gareth has found social history amongst the most unusual and often overlooked parts of Britain. An inspired book.
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Just superb, a real treat, thank you. Intriguing journey through the post-industrial landscape that holds all the mystery and haunts as any forest or stately home.
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A very likeable chatty book about various aspects and oddities in Britain. Beginning with a chapter about pylons, it was a dubious start for me, but I found by the end of the chapter I had my eyes opened to these steel monsters. Parts of the book I found less interesting than others, put that down to personal interests, but still a very likeable journey round rather less obvious British attractions. Well written and compelling.
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‘’After a long trudge over a misty moor, you arrive at the crest of a hill and pause for breath by an oak tree. Initials have been etched into the bark by others who have stood here. Lovers. Friends. Mourners. Your eye follows a drystone wall down to the valley below, where a river meanders through a meadow; a Civil War battle took place there, one so bloody that the water ran red for a week. You smell smoke. Hear the crackle of burning wood. A crow flies out from the spire of a derelict church just visible above the trees. Bells begin to toll but you know there have been no bells in that church tower for decades.’’

A superb introductory chapter paves the way for an exciting reading experience. From 19th-century urban landscape legends (Jack the Ripper, Spring-Heeled Jack, body snatchers and the rise of Spiritualism), we enter a chronicle of the numerous ways Britain has changed over the centuries. Lore, the unofficial and much more accurate and objective form of History, lies in songs and nursery rhymes, legends of dark alleys, witch huts, shadowy forms seen in battle-torn fields, ghostly music and voices. But what of the lore we constantly create within the hearts of our modern cities?

‘’We have the same instinct to seek patterns in the chaos. We still yearn to make sense of the mystery of existence. We still tell stories to help us process the world. We still have an emotional attachment to places and objects. These impulses have not died beneath the concrete and tarmac of the modern world, any more than they did beneath the iron and brick of the industrial revolution.’’

Modern folklore is well-hidden in our contemporary urban reality where legends and myths coextit with our seemingly mundane routine as we make our way through our personal and professional lives. In this book, we travel to Hull, Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow, Birmingham and London. 

Through the mysterious, fascinating Scarfolk craziness and the haunting children running around the pylons in Stocksbridge. The secrets of Glasgow and the mystery of urban geomancy. The folklore of roundabouts and crossroads, the haunted estates, the spectral nuns and monks and the faces in the windows. The mystery and danger of the underpasses, flyovers and intersections and their role in the development of urban culture. The strange magnetism of abandoned industrial sites and the sadness of car parks and multistoreys. The pain and agony that remain hidden behind the silent walls of abandoned hospitals.

I loved the 70s and 80s references and the writer’s passion and dedication to his theme. His words paint an eloquent and enticing background to the experiences he narrates and the writing is very engaging. You won’t be bored, not even for a moment. However, there were a couple of issues that felt problematic to me.

A woman was supposedly possessed by a demon named Pazuzu? Is this an attempt for the writer to appear smart? I fear all credibility can be thrown out of the window. Unfortunately, pun intended.

A certain interviewee’s convictions were highly problematic, even unacceptable. I mean, ‘’pride in being part of the drug underculture?’’ Since when do drugs consist a form of ‘’culture’’? Or any reason to be proud of? This brings me to the constant references of ‘’boozing’’. Being drunk is nothing to be proud of. It is hideous and dangerous. 

So, there were many ,many moments of beauty in this book but the attitude of the writer in what I consider sensitive issues diminished my enjoyment. Despite my personal dissatisfaction,  you  definitely need to try your luck with this book if only for the superb descriptions of the scenery and a world that may already be beyond our grasp.

‘’Witches, ghosts and demons have not been entirely banished to legend- they haunt our homes, shops, hospitals and roads. The churches, forbidden woods and haunted mansions that were once the stuff of our dreams and nightmares have now been replaced in our imaginations by industrial estates, power stations and factories.’’

Many thanks to Allison Menzies, Elliot & Thompson and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/
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Gareth Rees’s Unofficial Britain: Journeys Through Unexpected Places certainly lives up to its title. Despite having lived in the U.K. for a number of years, and the thousands of miles I’ve driven there, Rees took me to some places I never even got close to exploring (not that I would have likely explored them even if I’d known about them), some truly “unexpected places.”  

Picture if you would a study of the country’s electric pylon networks, its ring roads and roundabouts, its abandoned housing and industrial estates, its underpasses and flyovers, its “concrete castles” (otherwise known as multi-story parking garages), and its abandoned hospitals. My personal favorite chapter in the book is its last, one titled “An Emotional Life of the M6,” in which Rees details his still very strong attachment to that particular motorway. This is the chapter that readers will most easily identify with, especially if they have their own memories tucked away of some long highway or interstate they once traveled regularly with their parents.  

Gareth Rees visited multiple cities and towns in England, Scotland, and Wales in search of weird stories “about the lore of everyday urban life.” He traveled to major cities like Manchester, London, and Birmingham as well as to lesser known towns and villages such as Harlow, Grimsby, Greenock and Kirkintilloch. You might think that he was only looking for “haunted” spots in each location he stopped to explore. After all, how easy must it be to convince yourself that an abandoned hospital – complete with beds and other left behind equipment – or a long abandoned factory that looks like everyone just decided never to return one after work one day, is haunted? It would be particularly easy to do so at dusk, exactly the time of day Rees most often visited such places. 

But Unofficial Britain is not a book about ghost hunters or one written for them. Rees has a much deeper observation than that to share with his readers. Rees reaches the conclusion that even though everything about a place changes over the years, very little that matters actually changes. He maintains that a certain place tone and spirit is maintained forever despite what is overlaid on any place through the centuries – that each use of a place leaves something behind forever in an “ever-turning cycle.” He uses examples such as these:

	“The flyover where a viaduct once stood. The Victorian workhouse that became a hospital. The steelworks on the site of a monastery. The burial cairn surrounded by a busy interchange. Motorway earthworks that rise alongside their Stone Age predecessors.”

All places that Rees visits in Unofficial Britain” – all places where he feels the pull of the past so strongly that it gives him goose-bumps.
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