Meeting the English

Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy

Published March 3, 2015


Struan Robertson is top of his class in the tiny ex-mining town Cuik, in Scotland in 1989. A writer, Phillip Prys, whose work Struan enjoyed during his last school year has had a stroke. His family put an ad in the paper for a nurse to take care of Phillip. Struan, who had previously worked in an old folks’ home as his after-school job, is a perfect fit in more ways than one. So he takes the job to fill in his gap-year before university. He genuinely cares about Mr. Prys, in a way that no-one else in his family seems willing or able to do. The family includes the miscreant teenage son, an overbearing entitled ex-wife who still calls herself Mrs. Prys even though it has been many years since they’ve been married, a chubby selfish daughter and her anorexic best friend, and the current Mrs. Prys who is about forty years younger than her husband. Will Struan survive his meeting the English or will it forever change him? 3 stars.

I picked up this book based off the blurb because I am fascinated with the relationship between English and Scottish people in the modern age, because even though they are part of the same nation, there is still a great deal of animosity there because of past historical events. I lived in Scotland for nine months while in school and my husband is English, so I have a unique perspective on this phenomenon as well. I, for the most part, disliked most of the Prys family (especially the previous Mrs. Pryce), and felt sorry for the daughter and the current Mrs. Prys. I had a bit of a tough time getting into the book but was genuinely curious what Struan would get up to in that crazy house, and kept reading to find out. There was a bit of disparaging between the English and the Scottish but wasn’t as bad as I would’ve thought, just your basic Londoners thinking they are better than everyone, especially a Scottish lad from a backwater mining town. But that is also linked to class and ethnicity as well.