Do you throw a tea party on the Queen’s birthday? Do you sometimes forget what side of the road to drive on? Must you often resist the urge to type “colour” instead of “color”? Well, here are 3 thoroughly British books, picked just for you, old chap.
1. All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
Young veterinarian James Herriot moves to the tiny village of Darrowby in Yorkshire to work at a clinic there with the Farnon brothers: Siegfried, a high-strung control freak, and Tristan, a lovable ne’er-do-well. This book is a series of snapshots of Jim’s encounters with the colorful characters–be they people or animals–in Darrowby, complete with Yorkshire accents.
Don’t let the marketing of this book fool you. For some reason, publishers always present it as “heartwarming” and “innocent.” You’ll walk away from some stories with your heart warmed, sure–but there are also plenty of stories that will make you sob your eyes out or laugh until you want to die, and even a few with *ahem* more adult themes. Every vignette effortlessly transports the reader to Darrowby, with Herriot’s knack for describing the moor and its inhabitants. Herriot’s stories offer a delightful glimpse into pre-World War II rural England.
2. Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Right Ho, Jeeves features Wodehouse’s popular characters, Wooster and Jeeves. Bertie Wooster is a bumbling young man who has plenty of charm and bravado where his brains should be. Jeeves is his intelligent, suave, and perceptive valet. Set in 1920s England, the novel follows the misadventures of Bertie and his fellow aristocrats as Bertie tries to fix his friends’ problems without Jeeves’ help.
I can honestly say that Right Ho, Jeeves is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. It’s full of ridiculously British names (Gussie Fink-Nottle, Tuppy Glossop) and even more ridiculously British expressions (“old fruit,” “general good-eggishness”). The novel’s intricate plot, quirky characters, and unlikely ending make it a well-executed comedy in the vein of Much Ado about Nothing. In the words of his Aunt Dahlia, Bertie is an “amiable idiot” whose narration couldn’t be more enjoyable. Reading Right Ho, Jeeves is enough to make any Anglophile squirm with glee.
3. Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G.K. Chesterton
Father Brown, a small, doddering country priest, is an unlikely protagonist for a series of mysteries. However, the good man has an extensive knowledge of unlawful activity due to his years of hearing confessions. Follow Father Brown as he bests international criminals and cracks local conundrums in 15 short stories.
Chesterton’s prose is quick, clever, and humorous. The moments he chooses to portray and traits he chooses to describe are deliberate; not a word is wasted. The stories are set all around Britain, from London to Scotland to the English countryside, offering the reader a sweeping view of the Isles. If you like masterful writing, baffling mysteries, and distinctly British characters, then Father Brown is the book for you!
What do you think about these books? What other British books do you like? Let me know in comments!