All reviews are written by members of The H2G2 Bookworm's Club. We hope this review is helpful, and that we'll see you airing your views at the Club soon.
Notes From A Small Island, Bill Bryson
The response to this book is curious – when it first came out I recall it being warmly welcomed by the majority of critics and the public. It paved the way for Bryson to publish a number of other books in Great Britain (and, I believe, re-release older travel books there too).
Lately Bryson's writing has been looked down upon by a number of people. It seems that familiarity, as often happens, has bred contempt. Those who buy his books are now seen as not having enough discernment, having come to the party too late.
Those who have turned on Bryson's travel writing need to get back to their book shelves and re-read one of his books. They are still informative and still laugh-out-loud funny. This one is, in particular.
It may be because I live in the UK and recognise many of the places, customs and personality-types being commented upon, but this is probably my favourite of Bryson's travel books.
In it he travels around the country in the early 1990s, noticing things which the inhabitants have long tuned-out from or become accustomed to. He contrasts what he is seeing with his memories of Britain in the 1970s. He comments on both in relation to his experiences of life and culture in the USA. He is baffled by the quirks of public transport and town planning. His descriptions of the various towns are astute and detailed, looking at such diverse subjects as building styles and the place to get a good curry. He seeks out the places or buildings linked to those who have a story to tell, pushing long-forgotten social stories into the spotlight again.
This description does not do justice to the book, however. This book is hilarious. Almost every sentence contains a witticism but this never feels forced. It reads as though you are listening to a live oration and is never boring.
This is a book which I revisit again and again. It is great for dipping into and I often read a chapter or two when I need cheering up – it's a tonic!
If you like travel literature and especially if you know the UK, try this book. If you're less familiar with the UK this is an off-beat way of finding out about the natives. If you don't usually go for this type of book read it anyway. I defy you not to laugh at least once (and you'll learn a bit along the way)!