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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

October 04, 1992|KAREN STABINER

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH ENGLAND by Susan Allen Toth (Ballantine Books: $18; 352 pp.). A disclaimer here: I would relocate to Tuscany tomorrow if I could figure out how to make it work for myself and my family. I approach a loving memoir of travels in England with mild skepticism, since my only experience there was marked by bad weather and bad food. I take English reserve as a personal affront. Toth makes a convincing argument to the contrary, however: She sees England as the birthplace of literary history, a place that's teeming with interesting ghosts, a verdant landscape that she visits again and again, despite flirtations with alternate settings. This book is the story of 30 years' worth of trips, from her first jaunt as a college student--with a funny section about those terribly self-conscious photographs that all first-time tourists take--to her travels as a teacher, through a dissolved marriage and out the other side to a happy new love. The writing is rather restrained, sometimes infuriatingly so, but always elegantly modulated. Perhaps it's the only fitting style for a book about England, a place where mere misbehavior and marital discord are enough to throw an entire society into internationally noted upheaval.

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