Hmmmmm....I usually like Bill Bryson's books but for whatever reason, Notes from a Small Island just wasn't a great read. He's usually witty and I love his sarcasm but I felt like this was the never ending book. It just seemed like the same observations and comments chapter after chapter. But maybe that's the point he's trying to make (which I think he does state at the end)...that's it all the same in England...small town is small town. He would have done better had he taken some time to get to know the locals instead of just walking around by himself all over England. Maybe then we could have seen the little something that makes each town or city different from the next one. Not my fave but will definitely continue to read his books...am especially curious about the ones in the states since he's from the US.
Funny, informative and easy to read.
It made me laugh hard in many occasions because my husband is from England and I think England is different than what most people imagine .I love their witty sense of humor and even though driving there makes you crazy it is worthwhile to visit.
England: a country to be discovered with new eyes.
Compared to most of Bryson's excellent books, "Notes from a Small Island" is somewhat disappointing. Where his travelogue for Europe (Neither Here Nor There) inspired me to want to visit the countries mentioned, specifically seeing some and avoiding others on his recommendation, the same can't be said for his recounting of England. Overall the book is simply dull, without many events of particular note - and despite the fact that Bryson has an excellent sense of humor, there was very little within worth laughing about. I had to force myself to finish it and am left with the idea that England itself is dull, dreary, and I have little inspiration to want to visit it myself.
England is on my list of places I'd like to visit, and I enjoy Bill Bryson's writing, so what better way to get introduced to England than by a American writer i enjoy who has lived in England for over 20 years? I love Bryson's irreverent smart-ass humor. He is not politically correct nor proper, but I think he is funny. When Bryson tells a tale, he throws in enough creative embellishment to make his point without making it unbelievable. He is fun to read. I enjoyed getting a feeling for many of the little details and quirks of the places and people of England. Mr Bryson traveled over the entire island for this travelogue, and gives a good sampling of the island.
I'm glad that I read this book, but i'm not sure that I could recommend it to others. I came away from the reading with the feeling that Mr. Bryson spent about half of the book, spread out through the entire volume, talking about how England is not what it once was, especially architecturally. He spent a significant number of pages lamenting the recent poor architecture, and the lack of preservation of the very old traditional buildings and infrastructure. I am not sure why he dedicated such a large part of his book to this criticism, except that perhaps in his twenty-plus years in England, he had witnessed some of the economic and sociological policy that caused this change. Sadly this distracted from the richness of the journey. I did enjoy the perspective and knowledge gained on a large array of things English. I especially enjoyed the insights into the people, food, and history. But even with all his misgivings and laments, a few closing quotes sum it up for the author.
"It looked so peaceful and wonderful that I could almost have cried, and yet it was only a time part of this small, enchanted island. Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that i loved about Britain - which is to say, all of it."
"All of this came to me in the space of a lingering moment. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I live it here. I like it more than I can tell you. And then I turned from the gate and got into the car and know without doubt that I would be back."
Mr. Bryson was indeed true to those words. He moved back to England in 2003 to live, and serve as chancellor of Durham University from 2005 through 2011. A fun read, if you can overlook the recurring criticisms.
Bill Bryson is one of the funniest writers I have read lately. This early book has some wonderful moments, especially if you have also travelled in England, stayed in B&Bs, and navigated tiny, hedge-lined streets.
If I weren't familiar with Britain, I would't always "get" when he was being sarcastic/funny (making up place names, for example) and when he was being serious. But then, is he ever being serious? This IS a funny book just not as funny as I thought it was going to be.
This book was about 1/3 longer than it should have been. I really enjoyed the beginning, but the ideas and observations kept repeating themselves over and over- I felt like I'd read the book twice by the time I'd finished. I generally enjoyed it, just not as much as I thought I would after the first few chapters.
This book is a laugh out-loud funny tale of Bryson's farewell "tour" of Britain. He wittingly describes what endears him to the people and places, but whines interminably about the mishandling of the country's treasured architecture. Having never been to the island myself, I found myself constantly referring to the tiny illustration at the front of the book for his whereabouts. This map however, was no substitute for a real map and I eventually googled and printed a better version to help me picture where he was in each chapter. (Hey...I might go there one day, and most certainly would want to find Boar's Hill so I could run over some of those "no turning" signs in their driveways!)
Bill Bryson travels his adopted homeland of Great Britain and his observations about the people and places take the spotlight in this travel diary.
This is classic Bryson. Lots of acute observations, some dry humor along the way, and many adventures. While I enjoy Bryson, his writing is not for people who have not been to the place he is talking about. I enjoyed his other book "Neither Here, nor There" much more as I had been to Europe and the places he had been to in that book and therefore found his observations much more amusing than in this book.
I actually put this book down. It was entertaining for sure, but I just got sick of hearing about England after awhile. I will of course read Bryson again, but this one was just not a fave.
I enjoyed the book's beginning with the authors use of humor and description of the wonderful U.K., however, it became very predictable, repetitive. Each town he went to the same old same old. It could no longer hold my attention. I longed for an ending, so I jumped to the back few pages after I had labored more than half way through awaiting some change. I really had no need to look at the back pages, I already had guessed the ending...he arrived back home. If you need something to pass the day without any effort or need to hold onto the story there are some enjoyable moments but for me, I needed to end it early.
"... before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. ........With characteristic wit and irreverence, Bill Bryson presents the ludicrous and the endearing in equal measure. The result is a hilarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain."
I've read a few other books by Bryson and have enjoyed them all...this one was no exception. In this book, Bryson decides on one last tour of Britain before returning to the U.S. He had spent nearly two decades on British soil and wanted one last look at the island he had come to love. This book was written in 1995 and Bryson did return to the States after living in Britain since 1977 with his wife who he met there in 1973. (Bryson returned to Britain in 2003 and currently lives there).
Anyway, Notes from a Small Island is full of Bryson's sometimes over-the-top wit as well as descriptions and histories of the places he traveled. Bryson is not only a great travel writer and humorist but is also a great historian (one of my favorite books of his is A Short History of Nearly Everything). He does sometimes seem to be angry and lashes out at some of his inconveniences in small English villages but he is usually quite amusing in doing so. For example, he relates his experiences with a fussy innkeeper who tells him the correct methods for turning on the lights, flushing the commode, etc. Before leaving the establishment, Bryson relates: That evening, I forgot to turn off the water heater after a quick and stealthy bath and compounded the error by leaving strands of hair in the plughole. The next morning came the final humiliation. Mrs. Gubbins marched me wordlessly to the toilet and showed me a little turd that had not flushed away. We agreed that I should leave after breakfast!
Throughout the book are other colorful encounters as Bryson makes his way from Dover all the way North to Dunnet Head in Scotland, the most Northern point of the island. Along the way, he travels mostly by rail and/or by foot. One spot he tried to visit was Welbeck Abbey, the ancient home of the Dukes of Portland. He was especially interested in William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland, noted for his eccentricities. He was a recluse who preferred to live in seclusion and had an elaborate underground maze excavated under his estate at Welbeck Abbey. (I need to read more about him!)
Bryson manages to hit many interesting and not so interesting places in his travels including Dover, Exeter, London, Liverpool, Blackpool, Leeds, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, and many others. I found myself googling many of these sites to find their locations and more about them. Although there is a small map in the front of the book, I think the book would have benefited by including a much larger and detailed map showing more precisely Bryson's travels. But overall, I did enjoy this and would recommend it. I still have a few other books by Bryson on my shelf that I hope to get to soonish.