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Picnic in a Foreign Land: The Eccentric Lives of the Anglo-Irish - Book Review

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by Alison Muirhead (subscribe)
Doting grandmother and grey nomad who should join Volunteers Anonymous and is greatly in favour of a ten day week. So much to do, so little time.
Published February 21st 2016
Unedited Tales of the Anglo-Irish in the Irish Manner


I recently finished reading what should become a set book for students of editing. It could only be described as an editor's full-blown nightmare, the following being a prime example of the author, Ann Morrow's, style:

A happy informal Robinsonian garden, a riot of pink and blue, rhododendrons and the Arboretum; its elegant, cantilevered staircase with brass banisters are inviting on a grey November afternoon.

I'm amazed there is no apostrophe in "its". Read this book and weep, but I dare you to put it down. I have to agree with the Irish Times quote on the front cover "Quite entrancing". I am curious to know how the rest of that review went. Published by Collins, it is not a very good advertisement for this firm, in fact, I am tempted to Google it to see if the company has survived this tome.

The reason I could not put it down is because it reads like a gossip magazine in book form, and I have spent many an hour lined up at the local supermarket checkout taking free advantage of those brightly coloured rags with lurid headlines temptingly placed at the registers to while away the time. Such titbits as Lord Strathloch was a clergyman in Norfolk, England, when he suddenly discovered God was a Woman, and she married three times, first his father Lord O'Neill in 1932, then Lord Rothmere, the newspaper proprietor, and finally she ran off with Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels.

Date of publication is 1989, and I only came across it because a neighbour was clearing his bookshelves and donated the detritus to my daughter to pass on to unsuspecting readers through the Book Crossing program. It was written at the height of IRA activities, and led me to ponder whether there was a lot of difference between the wanton destruction by the Taliban of religious and cultural artefacts, and the IRA's razing of Ireland's historic homes and castles.

It contains a lot of history you really don't need to know, and the content could have been halved, but ironically, I didn't want it to end. The history in itself is sometimes extremely confusing. At times I was totally confused as to who was married to whom, but that really didn't matter in the scheme of things.

I was also led to ponder on the difference between slander and libel. Is it only slanderous if it is not true? Boyd has now been retired, and is to be seen cycling dangerously about the countryside and Teresa's ingenuous babbling ends abruptly when a poised and knowledgeable Melanie Annesley takes over.

Who is this Ann Morrow, and is she still assaulting the senses of pedants all over the English-speaking world? All I could find out through the Internet was that she was born in Ireland, now lives in London, had been a royal court reporter, and now writes articles for various newspapers and magazines. After this book was published, I doubt whether she was ever allowed to enter Ireland again. Those eccentric Anglo-Irish would probably rally a lynch mob.

During my Internet searches I came across a discussion group analysing another of Ann Morrow's books, "Cousins Divided: George V and Nicholas II". Some of the quotes from this group could equally be applied to the title in hand.

Regarding the veracity of some of the information contained in what is supposed to be an analysis of an historic connection:
Oooops! then, That's a big Oooops!
A lot of half-truths and innuendoes.
But I am about one quarter of the way through, so I'll keep reading and see what else there is to see. Another reader reeled in despite irregularities.
This book is increasingly sounding like a piece of fiction with a few names and dates thrown in for credibility.
What is known about this Ann Morrow? What else has she written? From the answer to this question, it appears these critics came up with the same info I had found. This was beautifully summed up by one contributor to the Message Board conversation, Sounds like a gossip columnist to me. :P

But don't let me put you off reading this pseudo history. There are many laugh out loud moments, particularly as the author is capable of using understatement to emphasise particularly crazy behaviours. No serious student of history would want to rely on content, but overall it makes for entertaining reading.

You can find used copies on Amazon from one penny, to seventy-four pounds and thirty-one pence for new ones. I find it very hard to believe that a new copy would be worth so much, just as much as I cannot take seriously the favourable reviews for its historic value on that site.
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Why? To be entertained by the Irishness of the Anglo-Irish
When: Any time you feel like a good chuckle
Where: For sale on Amazon
Cost: From one English penny
Your Comment
Oh dear! Entrancing or not, I doubt I'd survive the grammatical obstacle course.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|6154) 967 days ago
Its does not require an apostrophe--the apostrophe in written English is used to shorten ' it is ' , not to signify ownership. Here,'its' is related to the staircase, and does not mean it is..
by junea (score: 1|55) 966 days ago
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