This book (impulse buy, retail therapy) is a mass-market (Granta) edition of a small-press publication that caught the attention of the public, and was an unexpected success. It explores the 'true history' of 40 nursery rhymes -- from 'Ring-a-Roses' (which may not be all about the plague, as everyone 'knows') to 'London Bridge' -- and provides a witty commentary on the history and social framework concealed in each.
'Goosey Goosey Gander' turns out (possibly) to be about venereal disease; 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' is about the wool tax; 'Ladybird, Ladybird' is about witch-burnings. Or possibly not. A lot of what's said is fairly obvious, and the heavier historical discussions ('Sing a Song of Sixpence' as a roman-a-clef of Henry VIII's wives) are clustered towards the beginning of the book, making me wonder if the original idea ran out of material before there was enough for a full volume.
You have to like a man who describes Loki as the Norse god of taking the piss, though.
reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place