ENGLAND, BLOODY ENGLAND: An Expatriate's Return by Lesley Hazleton

ENGLAND, BLOODY ENGLAND: An Expatriate's Return

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Twenty years ago, Hazleton (Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 1986, etc.) left homeland England for Israel, then America. Recently, she returned to England to complete the process of permanent emigration to the US. What she keenly observed there--in the desolate northern cities, in London, in Oxbridge and elsewhere--forms the fascinating stuff of this tart, elegant report. Hazleton begins with her visit to her old 60's college haunt of Liverpool, now ""a city in decay"" whose Georgian terrace houses are ""inexorably, slowly crumbling away"" from dry rot. That rot, she finds, is endemic throughout England: in the educational system, here represented by an Oxford reeling under Thatcher's attacks on elite education; in culture, represented by a Stratford-on-Avon that's little more than a repository for Shakespearean kitsch; in sports, represented by a soccer game that's policed by hordes of cops necessary to control the unruly crowds; in the Royal Family itself, ""the most expensive soap opera ever."" Refreshingly, Hazleton weeps few tears for Olde England, by her account a class-ridden anachronism swept away by the relentless onslaught of the middle class, led by Margaret Thatcher, and by rampant Americanization. In fact, what remains of the past often horrifies her even as it blackly amuses: golliwogs--caricatured representations of blacks still available at Hamley's toy store and on Robertson's jam jars under the bowdlerized name of Gollies; an old pal, unseen for 25 years, now turned into ""the stereotype of the suburban housewife""; a queue of people so caught by the code of noninterference that they fail to react when Hazleton risks her life to save that of a boy caught in traffic. No wonder she feels ""blissfully pure relief"" when she wins permanent American residence at book's end. Not objective (""I was never very good at being English,"" confesses Hazleton) but penetrating all the same as her stinging perceptions, laced with bitterness, bring a land of apparent triumphant mediocrity into sharp focus.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1989
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown