Customer Reviews of England as You Like It
If you love England you will love this book.
I first read this book several years ago, when it was newly published. In Susan Allen Toth I found a kindred spirit who shares many of my interests and would never, ever ask why I keep going back to England again and again! At the time I did not have a trip to England in the works, but devoured the book anyway and tucked its suggestions away for future trips.
I have been to England three or four times since and each time I have incorporated some of Toth's ideas into my travel plans. I rented a car for the first time in 1997 (scary the first time), then this year spent two weeks driving around the Cotswolds (very successfully, and it enabled us to visit gardens and villages that we would not be able to reach by public transportation). I also rented a cottage for the first time this year, inspired by Toth's endorsement of this type of accomodation. (For those who are not ready or interested in a self-catering cottage, I recommend staying in high-quality B & Bs in areas outside London. Their rates are comparable to modest budget hotels in London, but they offer the amenities and decor of fine hotels. In contrast, small hotels--even outside London--are much more expensive.)
This book will be loved by persons who love England, but perhaps not appreciated so much by those who can not imagine spending two or three weeks in one small country, let alone in a smaller geographical region. This is a book to read after you've had your first "sampler" trip to England, seen the tourist attractions, and can hardly wait to go back again. You will also find that the internet offers resources that were not available when the book was first published. Many of the organizations and resources referred to by Toth have websites, and publications can often be ordered online.
I highly recommend this book for armchair travel, inspiration, and practical ideas to enhance your next trip to England. Of Toth's three books on England (all of which I have read and enjoyed), this my clear favorite.
Thank you so much Ms Toth. After finishing England As You Like It, I joined the Royal Horticulture Society, received my copy of The National Trust Holiday Cottages, and then rented one for next month. I signed up for Consumer ReportsTravel Letter. Just as I was about to rent a car for my upcoming holiday the newsletter arrived with all the information I needed to be an informed rental car customer. I have just about finished another of your wonderful books, England for All Seasons. I keep my road Atlas of Great Britain handy and look up all the places you so lovely talk about. Hoping as I turn each page that each one will be on the path that I have planned for this year's trip. I say this year because I know now that I can not see it all in one trip but to enjoy it the way you do, the way I know I will, I must slow down and saver each country walk or garden stroll. I have made many changes to my vacation plans to incorporate some of the places you describe, thank you so much for your wealth of knowledge. These months of planning have truly been a part of the trip that started for me when I first opened your book. I have been to England on two other occasions. Now with your wealth of knowledge added to my past experience this next trip should be lovely.
ENCOURAGEMENT TO BE YOUR OWN TRAVEL AGENT
So far, this book is absolutely incredible. The amount of detail is a bit baffling at first, better too much than too little. It gives suggestions for how to find excellent hotels and B & B's, good maps, restaurants, there are even suggestions on packing and keeping a travel journal. We're leaving for the British Isles in a matter of days, and I've been planning for the last 9 months. It would have been so much easier if I'd had this book. I can't wait to start planning our next trip. I don't like to use travel agents because it's been my experience that unless you are paying them to plan your entire vacation, you will be far from the top of their priorities list. Also, it's so much fun to plan your own vacation. This book is invaluable.
Susan Allen Toth is a successful writer and professor of English. She's also been carrying on a shameless affaire d'amour with England for some time. (Husband James, obviously an Enlightened Male, is tolerant.) In any case, her affection for that green and pleasant land makes her a soul mate of mine. I've devoured all three of her travel essay books on England, of which ENGLAND AS YOU LIKE IT is one. (The other two in the series are MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH ENGLAND and ENGLAND FOR ALL SEASONS.)
In an unpretentious, humorous, and thoroughly charming style, Susan shares a multitude of suggestions and experiences. How to independently create one's own English travel itinerary. The almost-sublime usefulness of the Ordnance Survey series of maps. ("These are distinctly royal maps. Each, in fact, carries a discrete notation: "Made and published by Ordnance Survey, Southampton. Crown copyright"." The art of flying Coach. The case to be made for overpacking. ("Don't waste time and money looking for it abroad if you can possibly take it with you.") The strategy for buying souvenirs for friends back home. The practical aspects of keeping a travel journal. The joys of shopping locally for food, and eating "in".
Of course, she also shares some of her favorite places, beginning with the shire of Cornwall in general, and the town of Padstow and castle of St. Michael's Mount in particular. Then, it's on to Ashdown Forest (Winnie the Pooh Country) in East Sussex. Later, we stay with her and James at the Victorian country house of Standen. ("It is not easy to recline with aplomb in one's bath while receiving strangers, but James carried it off very well.") And, the small harbor town of Lynmouth in Devonshire, ominously referred to in a local guidebook. ("Beware the twin honey pots of Lynton and Lynmouth.") For those visitors with more esoteric tastes, there's London's National Postal Museum, at which one can pick up an application to join the Letter Box Study Group, whose avowed aim is "to accumulate and disseminate information on all aspects of Letter Boxes". While in London, she seeks out several of that city's secret public gardens. Then, for those of her fellow Yanks wretched enough to consider England and Great Britain synonymous, she includes two chapters on the Scottish Highlands, and another on two Scottish battle memorials: Culloden (1745), and the site of a B-24 crash in June 1945 on Fairy Loch.
Finally, I must to refer to Susan's thoughts at the very beginning of Chapter One because I myself have luxuriated in the experience before each of my several trips to England (and Scotland):
"Months before we leave for England, I begin to travel. Night after night, I happily settle down with stacks of books, maps, and tattered clippings ... On a large pad of paper I list all the days we will be gone ... Now the work - and the fun - really begin. Curled up on the sofa, I sip my decaf, ponder my list of dates, open a map, and begin to dream."
Susan, bless you for reminding me of those dreams.
When An Author Creates A Completely New Genre...
What happens? Some don't get it, and others do. I agree wholeheartedly with Amazon.com's reviewers here insofar as the absolute wonder of these "essays" that are travel guides but not really the kind you would compare with a road map. This is great literature - along with its humor, savvy, sophistication and most importantly its understanding that America (albeit the beautiful) has a lot to learn from the ancient culture and art of that wonderous English Isle.