CHOPPING DOWN THE CHERRY TREES: A Portrait of Britain in the Eighties by Linda Christmas

CHOPPING DOWN THE CHERRY TREES: A Portrait of Britain in the Eighties

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A thoughtful report on the state of the United Kingdom from an open-minded journalist informed by vaguely liberal (albeit consistently humanistic) impulses. Intent on assessing the grass-roots effect of Margaret Thatcher's convulsive governance on institutions and individuals, Christmas (The Ribbon and the Ragged Edge, 1986) journeyed throughout the British Isles, from Scotland to Northern Ireland, New-castle, Liverpool, Wales, the City of London (the UK's Wall Street), Winchester, and less familiar way stations. Far from random, the tour was designed to cover subjects as well as ground. Her stay in the West Yorkshire city of Bradford, for example, gives Christmas an opportunity to comment on race relations, while Bristol affords a starting point for obiter dicta on the law, and Norwich (home of the Univ. of East Anglia) serves a similar purpose anent higher education. The author's narrative account of her travels (the allusive title of which derives from Chekhov, not George Washington) provides a vivid inventory of the socioeconomic and political changes that rocked the UK during the 1980's. Among other matters, Christmas recounts how certain industries (coal mining, shipping, etc.) were overtaken by events, and other enterprises have emerged to take their place. Although no fan of even the recent past (which she damns for its class conflict and poverty), the author fully understands that progress and renewal have exacted a toll in human terms. To illustrate, she notes that the residents of Celtic outposts like Cornwall still feel estranged, and that ring roads imprison the inhabitants of major urban centers. An engaging if episodic audit of a society in the midst of a makeover whose outcome is not yet clear.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Viking