My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This broad ranging examination of Northern England is subtitled ‘And Almost Everything In It’. At just short of 600 pages, Paul Morley makes a fair stab at including all he can find, or stumble across on the internet, that’s relevant to his own personal concept of ‘The North’.
But this lengthy work is a fine achievement. It held my interest throughout; quite a feat given the variety of style and content. Minor gripes are that starting the book with a bit of antiquarian history of the north seems overly ambitious, if not grandiose, and the section dealing with the author’s school days was less than fascinating. But perhaps the latter did relate to the run-of-the mill spirit of the area and therefore the work itself.
However, Morley adeptly weaves his own personal memoir into the bigger picture of The North as he searches for his own sense of northern identity. He grew up there (in Stockport). But his family roots are more southern and he has spent most of his adult life in London. This adds to the outsider quality of someone who doesn’t quite fit but can still easily blend in with the environment and who knows what he’s talking about without taking an ‘I’m more northern than thee’ attitude.
Meanwhile, the reader learns a lot about the people and places that have made ‘The North’ what it is. Where it begins and ends is open to debate as Morley recognises it is as much a mental space as a geographical one.