In A Field Guide to the English, Lyall strides her way readably, eloquently and perceptively across the social, political and cultural landscape of contemporary England. In a narrative studded with memorable anecdote and rich in humour, she explores themes as diverse as peers, politics, the media, understatement, the weather, and England's relationship with animals, alcohol and sex. She ponders such matters as the missing link between the famous British reserve and our equally famous predilection for hooliganism, the strange process by which a collection of naughty schoolboys pass Parliamentary motions, and the revelations that history did not start in 1492, and that Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent in Mary Poppins was a travesty. Sarah connects our essential toughness to Bronco loo paper, the Earl of Uxbridge losing his leg at Waterloo, not turning the central heating on until mid-November, and the fact that 'some of my husband's favourite puddings have stale white bread as the main ingredient.'
A longtime reporter for the New York Times, Sarah Lyall has been a correspondent in the London bureau since 1995, writing news articles and features. After 13 years Sarah realized she was turning English herself when she fell down the stairs at the hairdresser, dislocated her shoulder, and then said 'Sorry'. She lives in London with her husband and their two daughters.