Very American or Very British? Can you tell the difference?

November 8, 2013

I started a discussion over on the Fantasy Faction forum about people referring to works as “very American” or “very British”. I   can tell vocabulary and spelling difference and obviously geographic or cultural references. But beyond that, I personally haven’t noticed any particular trends or styles that would make me say “aha! This author is  from Britain!” or “This is a very American novel”. Maybe it’s because I read predominantly fantasies that have settings reminiscent of medieval England. I’m not sure. But I am curious.

From the discussion on the forum, many people have noticed trends that they can’t quite define but can recognize. So, I want to see how many people feel they can tell the difference. I’d also love to see an experiment using sample pieces from authors from different countries to let readers guess their nationalities (much like Teresa Frohock’s Gender Bending contest).


  • Vicky Hooper November 8, 2013 at 8:38 am

    There are definitely some books that just feel British, like books by Diana Wynne Jones, Emma Newman, or Terry Pratchett. Or the Harry Potter series. I can’t quite explain what it is, just certain ways characters talk, and perhaps the way plot and pacing are handled… not sure. I think ones that feel American to me perhaps feel that way because they resemble American TV and movies? I’m reading Deaths of Tao at the moment and that feels very American. There are books set in England that still feel very American too. I don’t think I can tell in the majority of cases, but with some books it does leap out at me.

    Interesting post! 🙂

    • Lisa November 8, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Deaths of Tao definitely has a Hollywood action movie feel to it, so I can see that being labeled as feeling ‘American’ 🙂 It is interesting how people associate styles that they can’t quite define, with authors nationality. It’s just not something I’ve given much thought.

  • Erica Dakin November 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    If you’re setting up an experiment I’d be happy to donate a section of one of my books. I’m a complete unknown, so that should make people reading it pretty unbiased, but I write from a British perspective and often confuse my American editor with certain expressions.