Thursday, March 29, 2012

Notes from a Small Island

I had read Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson years ago but decided to re-read it before passing it on. It's a travel narrative, telling the story of a few weeks in the author's life spent wandering around Britain -mostly on foot and using public transportation- before he moves back to the U.S. with his family. Bryson has a nice sense of humor, but his descriptions aren't as vivid as some of the other travel writers I've read.

He does mention several other books, including Kingdom by the Sea, Tarka the Otter, In Search of England, The Road to Wigan Pier and Lost Resort: the Flow and Ebb of Morecombe. He also mentions a Wordsworth poem titled "I Can Be Boring Outside the Lake District Too". I found myself particularly interested in the 5th Duke of Portland, W.J.C. Scott-Bentinck (1800-1879) with his underground library nearly 250' long.

I wonder how Bryson can do all that walking and still not understand the purpose of tucking pant legs into socks, but maybe the ticks aren't so much a problem in Britain.

from the back of the book:
After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson -bestselling author of The Mother Tongue and Made in America- decided to return to the United States. ("I had recently read," Bryson writes, "that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another,so it was clear that my people needed me.") But before departing, he set out on a grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.

Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie's Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile.

Kirkus Reviews calls it "A diverting travel journal". Lonely Planet doesn't like the author's "need to be cynical for the sake of being cynical and nothing more" and describes it as "a pretty average book". EW gives it a B- and closes by calling it "polite, unobtrusive, often charming, and quite easy to overlook."

No comments:

Post a Comment