Review of ‘Unofficial Britain: Journeys Through Unexpected Places’ by Gareth E Rees

A fascinating book about finding the supernatural in the most unlikely locations. I was genuinely creeped out sometimes while reading it. Bringing together the urban landscape and urban mythology, woven with folk horror and nostalgia, it’s a very unusual book which has something in common with Ghostland by Edward Parnell but the writing is not as beautiful. Although I enjoyed it, somehow it didn’t quite match my expectations.

I’ve always liked pylons so I particularly enjoyed the first chapter, ‘In Worship of the Hum’. ‘Concrete Castles’ looks at eerie multi-storey car parks, ‘Theatre of Fate’ is about hospital architecture and ‘Demons in the Present’ focuses on paranormal activity on modern housing estates. I wasn’t so keen on ‘Memory Motorways’, although it did reference The Shining and The Way Inn when discussing chain hotels. Not being a car user and very rarely experiencing motorways, I couldn’t relate to the journey the author took in this longer chapter.

The anecdotes and weird photos were the best aspects of the book. I found that the writing style tended to veer into theorising, which didn’t really tell us much. I wanted even more travel descriptions and less waffle. I liked the folk song or poem at the end of each chapter, which references the contents of that chapter. The message I took from this book is that there isn’t a sharp divide between modern times and historic eras; mythology and magic can be found anywhere. It also told us that the typical image of Britain is not a quaint chocolate-box village, but a post-industrial town dominated by flyovers, roundabouts and other necessary evils which, if you look at them in a different way, reveal their importance to the human imagination.

First published in 2020.

3 thoughts on “Review of ‘Unofficial Britain: Journeys Through Unexpected Places’ by Gareth E Rees”

  1. I’ve had this on my shelf far too long I ought to pick it up and your review has reminded me why I bought it in the first place 😅 spooky-but in unusual places! 👻

    1. Thanks 🙂 It’s an interesting read, a possible read for the spooky season?

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