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Notes from a Small Island Paperback – May 15, 2001
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Reacting to an itch common to Midwesterners since there's been a Midwest from which to escape, writer Bill Bryson moved from Iowa to Britain in 1973. Working for such places as Times of London, among others, he has lived quite happily there ever since. Now Bryson has decided his native country needs him--but first, he's going on a roundabout jaunt on the island he loves.
Britain fascinates Americans: it's familiar, yet alien; the same in some ways, yet so different. Bryson does an excellent job of showing his adopted home to a Yank audience, but you never get the feeling that Bryson is too much of an outsider to know the true nature of the country. Notes from a Small Island strikes a nice balance: the writing is American-silly with a British range of vocabulary. Bryson's marvelous ear is also in evidence: "... I noted the names of the little villages we passed through--Pinhead, West Stuttering, Bakelite, Ham Hocks, Sheepshanks ..." If you're an Anglophile, you'll devour Notes from a Small Island.
From Publishers Weekly
Before his return to the U.S. after a 20-year residence in England, journalist Bryson (Made in America) embarked on a farewell tour of his adopted homeland. His trenchant, witty and detailed observations of life in a variety of towns and villages will delight Anglophiles. Traveling only on public transportation and hiking whenever possible, Bryson wandered along the coast through Bournemouth and neighboring villages that reinforced his image of Britons as a people who rarely complain and are delighted by such small pleasures as a good tea. In Liverpool, the author's favorite English city, he visited the Merseyside Maritime Museum to experience its past as a great port. Interweaving descriptions of landscapes and everyday encounters with shopkeepers, pub customers and fellow travelers, Bryson shares what he loves best about the idiosyncrasies of everyday English life in this immensely entertaining travel memoir. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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I am going to be traveling to the UK soon and thought it would be nice to read someone else's thoughts and views about the country. So I logged onto Amazon and picked up this book, in which Mr. Bryson (an American who lived in Great Britain for 2 decades) details his travels via train, bus, and on foot through various portions of the country.
I appreciated the author's candidly hilarious experiences, thoughts and views, and almost poetic (well, sometimes more like a limerick than a poem - ahem) descriptions of the countryside, towns, buildings, and people. The only time I take issue with this book is during a few of his less-than-happy encounters with some of those people described, where Mr. Bryson occasionally comes off as being rather rude (ok, sometimes it felt justifiable - to me - as when he was up against an older couple who used him as their whipping post regarding their recent trip to the US). But I took issue with his treatment of a poor young man working at a McDonalds in Scotland who was simply doing his job and didn't deserve the fractious diatribe to which Mr. Bryson subjected this kid. Granted, the author was suffering an apparently large hangover, but even I wouldn't be so rude(well, I don't *think* I would, and I've had my own share of hangovers). Perhaps it's also because I used to work in the service industry and have myself dealt with less-than-cheerful customers who tended to blame the order-taker for a variety of ills.
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and do recommend it to anybody interested in reading about the beauty, vagaries (funny as well as sad), and small histories of a country as seen through the eyes and experiences of a non-Brit who loves this country whole-heartedly.
If you have no experience of the UK you will find this book gives you a true if some what quirky picture at least in my opinion well worth the read.
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(It seems that seventeen more words were required to submit this review... almost there... fifteen, sixteen, done! :)