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Monday, 28 July 2014

"The past is a foreign country..."


I've looked it up and, apparently, this is a quote from The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley.  It struck me as particularly appropriate because I've been reading quite a few books recently by people who have moved abroad.  In fact, I'm beginning to wonder whether I should turn off the lights for the U.K. the next time I go on holiday as there's clearly only me still here.

Most of the books are really quite interesting and clearly have a wide appeal for those, like me, who can dream of emigrating but will probably never actually do so.  Of course, the standard varies, and for every one that is well written there are a dozen more that clearly have been prompted by the "You've got so many stories to tell, you should write a book" type of comment.  The best books are usually those written by people who have really integrated with their local people and culture and thus have something to share about living within a different culture.  The worst sort are those written by people who have remained in their own little bubble and view the world around them as an episode of 'Foreigners Do The Funniest Things'.  In fact, I'm just about to give up reading one for this very reason.  If I do, it will give it the honour of being only the second book that I've given up on in my life!

I was beginning to feel that, in comparison, my books were pretty hum-drum, until the quote above came to me, and I realised that I do write about a foreign country, albeit one that most of my readers have passed through in the last 40 or 50 years.  We know the culture and their habits and we can understand the language (even if we might struggle with some of it, these days).  So why not join me in a little holiday in the past?  You won't need a passport, I promise you won't get a tummy bug, and there are no queues at the check-in :-)