tea & antipathy
Pay careful attention to the subtitle of this memoir: An American Family in Swinging London.
Anita Miller and her husband did take their three boys to live in London for three months in 1965. And London itself was, quite likely, swinging. But by the end of their time there, Miller and her family pretty much wanted to hang themselves (or, preferably, many of those they dealt with in London... particularly their landlady).
Anita and her husband Jordan had previously visited London and loved it, so when the opportunity to live there for three months came up they jumped on it, proclaiming that it would be a great trial run because they "might want to live there some day". But for Anita and her family, London was an (extremely) rude awakening.
There's the paranoia and rude and accusing behavior of their landlady, the inexplicable personality change of an old friend who was a warm Brit back in the States but a miserable and stressed woman in England, and the absolutely terrifying Hamlet's Uncle in Madame Tussauds' Wax Museum. Cultural differences like a deep seated distrust of refrigerators, the British hatred and suspicions of Americans, and differing parenting techniques are alarming and baffling for the Millers.
Of course, there's two sides to every story, and since this is Miller's memoir, we don't much see what the Brits thought of them. I saw glimpses, here and there, of some possible complicity in the culture war on the side of the Miller family. Potential offenses for not understanding or respecting the Brits' relationship with their Queen. Their landlady seems ridiculously paranoid that they're going to destroy her home and belongings from the moment they step foot in the house and on the whole her concerns do seem ludicrous but then there's the scene where Miller has a large party at the home during which one of the guests sits in the landlady's antique chair and breaks it, then moves on to another chair to break that, too, and the Millers and their guests laugh uproariously at this.
There is some repetitiveness here, as it's mostly a collection of different incidents the Miller family experienced, but the interactions often have the same results. This memoir is funny and very interesting to see the cultural differences and frustrations, some of which seem to be particular to the time and some of which I've seen echoes of or still in practice today during the time I've spent in England.
~ Advanced review copy provided by Chicago Review Press.