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Review of Unruly by David Mitchell: A Vulgar History with Expletives

Review of Unruly by David Mitchell: A Vulgar History with Expletives


In his introduction to Unruly, David Mitchell, a comedian and columnist for Observer, describes his book as a collection of anecdotes about England, with a focus on topics that he finds most intriguing. This often includes individuals wearing flashy metal headpieces. Similar to Horrible Histories, but with a touch of profanity, Unruly is organized into sections such as Pre-Willy (before 1066), The Dukes of Hazard (covering two Williams, two Henrys, Stephen, Richard, and John), Here Comes the Reign Again (Henry III and three Edwards), and Everything’s Coming Up Roses (covering all other rulers up to Elizabeth I).

Narrated with his usual dry and sarcastic tone, Mitchell’s book doesn’t strive for academic seriousness. Instead, it adopts a conversational style, sprinkled with humor and personal opinions. Mitchell expresses annoyance towards figures like Edward the Confessor, who he deems a “lucky bastard” for escaping back to Normandy while Alfred the Ætheling was being tortured, and Henry VIII, whom he compares to a mixture of Kerry Katona and Vladimir Putin for his public lifestyle. He refutes the popular belief that Henry II asked for Thomas Becket’s death and suggests it was more along the lines of frustration with his incompetent entourage. Despite covering topics such as family feuds, infidelity, torture, murder, and extreme incompetence, Mitchell maintains a jovial tone, while backing up his facts with undeniable knowledge.

The audiobook version of Unruly is accessible through Penguin Audio for a duration of 11 hours and 39 minutes.

Further listening
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The lead singer of Sonic Youth shares his memoir, which details his upbringing in Florida and his influential role in alternative rock for the past fifty years.

Jonathan Coe, Penguin Audio, 12hr 29min
The author from Middle England presents a moving depiction of a Birmingham family through significant moments such as Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation and the 1966 World Cup. Peter Caulfield and Cara Horgan provide narration.

Source: theguardian.com