Impeccably researched, thoughtfully argued and well-crafted, the problem with Clair Wills’s account of immigration in post-war Britain is that the germs of interesting stories are told in a somewhat dry, formulaic and academic style; in a book which is fundamentally about the emotional impact of immigration, mainly on the immigrants themselves, but also on the indigenous population. However, Will’s style does not lend itself well to presenting the journey’s the individuals or groups which Wills describes went through. So whether it be the Polish immigrants who were interred in Iran and South America, the taboo breaking interracial relationships between West Indian and British women, the lachrymose, lonely and homesick Irish immigrants or the immigrants from the Indian sub-continent who sought to echo the British culture they were attempting to integrate in so much that even parroted the gangsterism of the British underclasses.
However Wills is able to present a number of little-know and well researched facts, especially pertaining to the first wave of Commonwealth immigrants and the East European immigrants who undertook a surprising round-the-world our before arriving in Britain. Otherwise ‘Lovers and Strangers’ presents a cogent argument for immigration and its importance in creating a dynamic, forward-thinking society and culture; it is also a reminder of the worn-out arguments which have always driven the myopia of anti-immigrant thoughts; that immigrants are dirty criminals unable to integrate to society, that they are unrepentant ravishers of helpless local women, that they are a drain on resource and are taking local citizens jobs, or the cruder racial arguments put forward by the worst of anti-immigration movements.