One-Minute Book Reviews

August 22, 2007

‘Looking for Class,’ Bruce Feiler’s Memoir of Cambridge University

Filed under: Memoirs,Nonfiction,Travel — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:13 am
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The host of a popular PBS series remembers his jolly good time in graduate school

Bruce Feiler earned a master’s degree at Cambridge University before becoming the host of the popular PBS series Walking the Bible. He recalls his studies into the engaging memoir, Looking for Class: Days and Nights at Oxford and Cambridge (Harper Perennial, $13.95, paperback), which explores the clash between tradition and modernity at England’s second-oldest university in the early 1990s. (Oxford has little role in the book except as the other half of the pair of school known as “Oxbridge.”) At Cambridge Feiler ate doner kebabs, rowed in a boat race, went to the May Ball and spoke for the “yea” side in a Cambridge Union debate about whether it was “better to be young, free, and American” than British. He’s generally less acerbic than Bill Bryson and tends to view English idiosyncracies with wry affection instead of scorn. But Feiler still made people laugh at the Cambridge Union debate by asking a question that suggests the tone of his memoir: Was it true, he asked, “that the Brits keep a stiff upper lip in order to hide their teeth”?

Furthermore: Ever wonder how I choose some of these books? In this case, a young Scottish friend of mine got into Cambridge last week after acing four exams, one in something called, mystifyingly, “further maths.” I read this book and enjoyed it a few years ago and thought about it again after the good news arrived.

© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

One-Minute Book Reviews is an independent literary blog created by Janice Harayda, who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of the Plain Dealer and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle Please visit for information about her comic novels The Accidental Bride and Manhattan on the Rocks.

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