Quick Review: INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE BRITISH PEOPLE DURING THE EMERGENCY by Jason Hazeley & Nico Tatarowicz (Quercus)

InstructionsForBritishPeopleDuringEmergencyA very amusing handbook for these interesting times

An indispensable handbook to see the nation through lockdown, breakdown and meltdown.

As Britain enters a period of tremendous upheaval, your government has requested that everyone immediately undertake a series of life-style changes that may test the nation’s resolve.

Most of it is simple common-sense, but common-sense may be new to you, especially if you are young, wistful or an imbecile.

Indeed, it should be noted that much of what is to come in the weeks and months (and months) ahead will be new to us all. But let us remember that, not so long ago, the same was true of pesto.

We must not lose heart. With stoicism, courage and a substantial supply of alcoholic fortification, we will pull through this together and emerge from it a stronger (or weaker but more experienced) nation.

Sir Clement Apricot-Wilson,
Permanent Secretary
The Department of Unforeseen Circumstances

I was pre-approved for this on NetGalley, and decided to give it a try on a bit on a whim. I’m very glad that I did, because this is at times very funny. As it turned out, this book is just the antidote for these strange and difficult times I was looking for. Very enjoyable.

Presented in the form of an old-fashioned instruction manual/handbooks distributed during the Second World War, this book is packed with amusing suggestions for how to survive the pandemic — or “The Emergency” as it’s referred to. Many of the suggestions and proscriptions contained within the book are indeed excellent, and not only relevant to times of self-isolation, etc.

I’m not entirely sure how to review this book. It’s not very long, but it is highly quotable — to the point where to do so might ruin the fun of reading it for yourself. It is also filled with call-backs to previous jokes contained within, so I’m sure some of the parts that had me laughing out loud might not really land when taken out of context.

There are suggestions that range across a great number of topics. Some, more general…

“One of the most popular ways to deal with a situation one is unused to is by not coping at all… substances that are usually reserved for a celebration might begin to look like breakfast”

… some related to managing childcare during The Emergency…

“Gin and loud music can nullify the feelings of parental exhaustion to a point, but ultimately it is you that must bring your children under control whilst still appearing to love them.”

Other topics covered include personal hygiene and staying healthy, intimate relations during the pandemic (not the best portion of the book, but still pretty amusing), working from home, what to expect after the Emergency, and a list of dos and don’ts (many of which were probably relevant in the Before Times, too, actually).

I read this in a couple of hours, and recited a good deal of it to my partner (I didn’t ask her if she wanted to hear the funny bits, but I had to share them anyway). I am not someone who typically laughs out loud when reading — I’m more likely to chuckle, snort or make some other noise of amusement, but rarely will I LOL. Reading this, though, I did so frequently. The Behaviour Checklist, I think is my favourite section in the book.

If you are finding these pandemic days to be a bit much, or are just looking for a pick-me-up, then I think Instructions for the British People During the Emergency may very well be just the ticket.

Very funny, I would definitely recommend this for anyone who needs a break during these otherwise rather dour times.


Jason Hazeley & Nico Tatarowicz’s Instructions for the British People During the Emergency is out now in the UK, published by Quercus Books.

Follow the Author (Hazeley): Twitter
Follow the Author (Tatarowicz): Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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