Joe Moran is so clever, interesting and quietly witty that while reading this book I kept wishing that I were friends with him so that I could join in the conversation. There were passages that made me yelp with agreement and others that I longed to argue over with him. Shrinking Violets is one of those books that require the proximity of another person, someone with the forbearance to look keen when you keep saying, ‘Listen to this!’ There are marvellous observations: ‘Brief Encounter is like Anna Karenina strained through the fine sieve of English shyness’; ‘America gave birth to that now thriving sub-species of the shy, the nerd’; blushing was once known as ‘the lava of the heart’.
Elsewhere, Moran suggests that seals are shy – which is plain wrong – and neglects to mention the very epitome of animal reticence, the adorably solitary okapi. He says The Beatles were cheeky, cheery chappies, overlooking the fact that George Harrison was known as the quiet one (and