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The kingdom by the sea : a journey around Great Britain (original 1983; edition 1983)

by Paul Theroux

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,087None7,641 (3.53)32
Member:Marchbanks
Title:The kingdom by the sea : a journey around Great Britain
Authors:Paul Theroux
Info:Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1983. 353 p. ; 24 cm. black cloth backed buff boards ; dj.
Collections:Your library, Travel and exploration
Rating:***1/2
Tags:travel, exploration, Britain, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, 20th century, Houghton Mifflin

Work details

The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain by Paul Theroux (1983)

  1. 10
    Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (John_Vaughan)
  2. 10
    Coasting by Jonathan Raban (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: One friend on foot the other sailing, both vividly describing England. An amusing comparision can be made by refering to a meeting of these two friendly rivals - a different version of events and views in each book.
  3. 00
    The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane (John_Vaughan)
  4. 00
    Walking to Canterbury : A modern journey through Chaucer's medieval England by Jerry Ellis (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Both visting and touring authors are American, but their individual viewpoints are very distinct.
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» See also 32 mentions

English (12)  Dutch (3)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Reading this book is like taking a slow walk. (I had taken it off of my shelf when "slow reading" was needed....and it worked.) I have read the reviews and checked those that agree with my satisfaction. To sum it up: if you want to go on a slow walk around Britain without leaving home this may possibly be the book for you. ( )
  Esta1923 | Jan 21, 2014 |
Paul Theroux writes about his travels around the coast of Britain. This book is highly regarded but I really didn't feel it.

The book could be summarised quite easily. Theroux gets off a train and looks for a nice place to stay. He is the only guest and the owners tell him it will be busy when the tourist season starts. The room is horrible and the owners unhospitable, he leaves as soon as he possibly can. The town is deserted and the few things that are open are unimpressive. He picks up his bag and walks to the next town, which is pretty much the same as the previous one.

I chose this book because the author seemed like someone that I should read. However I just found the book to be a long winded and repeatative whinge about the lack of hospitality and excitement in the coastal towns. It was written in a particularly humourous way, just a bland unimpressed opinion piece that filled a book. ( )
  alsocass | Oct 12, 2013 |
I enjoy old travel books and tend to pick them up at local book sales if they look halfway promising . This one is a narrative of Theroux' experiences as he spent three months on a trip he undertook to circumnavigate Great Britain. The books is dated, of course. It was written in the mid-1980's before the channel tunnel was complete and reflects the time in which it was written quite entertainingly. There's nothing quite like looking back on an era you've lived through from a vantage point of 30 years experience to make you see your own generation's absurdity clearly. Sadly, most people would find the book boring at this remove and that's a pity because it's a lovely way to take a peek at a time and place that have gone forever. ( )
1 vote turtlesleap | Sep 15, 2012 |
Traveling along the whole coast of the United Kingdom sounds like a daunting task. The joy of traveling in Great Britain is that one can reach any place reasonably fast by road or train by its hub and spoke system centered on London. Relying on the failing tangential railroads and doing it at the nadir of "Britain isn't working" and the Falkland War is a guarantee for misery. Arriving in Bristol after having traveled across the South of England, Theroux' enthusiasm is mostly spent. A cantankerous, middle-aged man, living out of his rucksack, discovers the tragedies of a salesman to nowhere.

Theroux spends an inordinate amount of time and space complaining about his lodgings and the food (which given the national penchant of not-complaining can be awful indeed). Instead of enjoying the sights, going to theaters, museums and exhibitions, Theroux chats with the staff and owners of the miserable establishments as well as the elderly, the unemployed and the unemployable he happens to meet while life passes him by. It feels a bit like the movie Sideways without stopping by the wineries. The strange portioning of the chapters reflects some of Theroux' frustration: Ten chapters from London to Brighton, three for Wales, three for Northern Ireland, four for Scotland (where he nearly meets the Queen), four for Northern England and only two for the West coast. At the end, he just wants to return home, which is not only an English but a universal feeling. I hope he is less grumpy in his travel across China. ( )
3 vote jcbrunner | Mar 6, 2011 |
Anyone can walk around and make chippy comments, but it takes a true perceiver, one who lives the examined life, to be able to see that his narration is but one of a myriad perspectives, that his American bias is going to make the British speech sound ridiculous, and most of all to be able to characterise the various encountered examples of British-ness in what feels a correct way, and with all his evident knowledge adding deeper but never scholarly knowledge. For example, his knowledge of much earlier travellers such as Boswell & Johnson or poets I'd never heard of gives great depth to his own thoughts. (As for his hilarious enunciation of accents ("Madam, please take that chayld awee from the winder"--bus driver to passenger), he doesn't make this self-awareness obvious, but you know it'd have occurred to him that someone from 'Eire' touring Texas would have as much mirth with the role-reversal.) A tour tour-de-force that avoids the 'stunts' of visiting the famous ruins and churches, sticks to the coast and avoiding inland attractions, that doesn't parody itself by insisting on foot travel every step of the way (trains and buses and hitchhiking during the rail strike spell the hiking stretches, as well as a mail van on one remote stretch). What a pleasure. ( )
2 vote Muzzorola | Mar 4, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Mr. Theroux is never less than readable, and many of his observations are disturbingly to the point. One scene, when his railway carriage of polite, self- effacing English folk is invaded by violent, swearing skinheads, will stick in the memory for a long time. It is exactly the sort of thing that happens often and everybody pretends not to notice. His perception of the kingdom of the sea may be a partial one, and in my view jaundiced, but it makes a stimulating book for all that.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Auberon Waugh (Jul 19, 1983)
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paul Therouxprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keith, RonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I dedicate this Book to those friends of mine in Britain who, giving me a welcome I must ever gratefully and proudly remember, left my judgment free; and who, loving their country, can bear the truth, when it is told good-humouredly and in a kind spirit. Adapted from Charles Dickens's dedication to American Notes, 1842
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Everyone seemed to be going to China that year, or else writing rude things about the Arabs, or being frank about Africa.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140071814, Paperback)

Award winning writer Paul Theroux embarks on a journey that, though closer to home than most of his expeditions, uncovers some surprising truths about Britain and the British people in the '80s in "The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain". Paul Theroux's round-Britain travelogue is funny, perceptive and 'best avoided by patriots with high blood pressure...' After eleven years living as an American in London, Paul Theroux set out to travel clockwise round the coast and find out what Britain and the British are really like. It was 1982, the summer of the Falklands War, the ideal time, he found, to surprise the British into talking about themselves. The result makes superbly vivid and engaging reading. "A sharp and funny descriptive writer. One of his golden talents, perhaps because he is American and therefore classless in British eyes, is the ability to chat up and get on with all sorts and conditions of British...Theroux is a good companion". ("The Times"). "Filled with history, insights, landscape, epiphanies, meditations, celebrations and laments". ("The New York Times"). "Few of us have seen the entirety of the coast and I for one am grateful to Mr Theroux for making my journey unnecessary. He describes it all brilliantly and honestly". (Anthony Burgess, "Observer"). American travel writer Paul Theroux is known for the rich descriptions of people and places that is often streaked with his distinctive sense of irony; his other non-fiction titles, "Riding the Iron Rooster", "The Happy Isles of Oceania", "Sunrise with Seamonsters", "The Tao of Travel", "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star", "The Old Patagonian Express", "The Great Railway Bazaar", "Dark Star Safari", "Fresh-air Fiend", "Sir Vidia's Shadow", "The Pillars of Hercules", and his novels and collections of short stories, including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize winner "The Mosquito Coast" are available from Penguin.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:12 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Reports on the author's journey along the coasts of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

(summary from another edition)

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