I was sent this book some time ago for the purposes of reviewing…at last, here I am reviewing it!
Finding Myself in Britain is one woman’s story of adjustment. Amy Boucher Pye moved to England from the USA when she married her husband and vicar-to-be, Nicholas. As you read the book, you can feel the extent of her culture shock, of the joys and challenges, the misunderstandings, the loneliness, the acute thread of homesickness.
The book uses the format of going through seasons of the year, which lends much interest. Of course, as with any book, there were bits I wanted to linger on longer, dig a bit deeper, but the structure does work well.
Amy reflects with fondness on her ‘two worlds’ – which are both, at the same time, home and not-home .You can feel her struggle, this foot-in-both-camps sensation. She recounts the confusions and the apparent oddities of each culture in the eyes of the other. I identified with some of these – who would make tea without boiling water? – but not all – I don’t think I’ve ever warmed a pot! I wouldn’t introduce myself with my full name, but I wouldn’t shy away from introducing myself at all (apparently this is a British tendency?). Maybe that’s because I am a (Baptist) minister’s wife who has learned she needs to get a name, quickly!
Amy’s journey leads her into the Church of England, which some might call quintessentially British, although for some of us non-conformists, Anglicanism and Anglican lingo can feel rather alien, whether we are British or not! I grew up in an Anglican church and do at least understand what is meant by the terminology of things, but it’s no longer a familiar part of my landscape.
The book’s strong point is the twin emphasis on joining two cultures and one woman’s very personal Christian journey. Amy’s journey is both admirable and heart-wrenching and challenges readers to think about how they ‘welcome’ others. How do we allow people to be themselves, even if they are coming from different cultural norms? Her faith in God holds her journey together; indeed, as for myself and others, her journey would be very different indeed without that faith.
The book also comes with some recipes – it’s clear that Amy has a heart and a gift for hospitality. These dishes aren’t just about taste but history; they have personality.
In reading this book you will find moments of ‘oh yes, that’s so true’ and others where you think ‘really? I never noticed that.’ (It never occurs to me to think about class much in British society so it surprised me how strongly that came across – I had no idea petunias were frowned on by the upper classes! I don’t tend to go for petunias, I confess, a bit too blowsy for me – but is that anything to do with the Brit in me – I’m not ‘upper class’ -or just ‘me’?!).
And there it is. Even within cultures and tendencies (and some are hilarious, if you think about them) we are individuals, with our own ‘takes’ on life. (If you want to laugh yourself silly follow @SoVeryBritish on Twitter!.) It was fascinating to read about the Scottish way of welcoming the New Year and what lay behind it – I’d never known about it before.
Even on one small isle, traditions can be diverse.
This book is one woman’s take on her own experiences and I recommend it, especially for those who have trouble defining ‘home’. Thanks for the read, Amy!
Visit Amy’s website here.
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I was given this book for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review.