Friday, July 6, 2007

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Notes from a Small Island
Author: Bill Bryson
ISBN: 0552996609
Publisher: Black Swan
Pages: 352

This is an account of a journey that Bryson makes round Great Britain some time in the early 90's after deciding that he will leave UK and go back to the United States. Before he leaves, he feels the need to see the country, which he has called home for the past two decades. He starts with a recollection of his first arrival in Dover good 20 years before and then repeats the Calais-Dover journey and continues the tour (mostly by public transport) that takes in - amongst others - London's Wapping; Dorset Coastal Path, Salisbury, Lincoln, Bradford, Port Sunlight, Inverness and Wick.

He begins his journey, entering by sea from France as he first arrived, on the south coast of England and aims to travel all around in just a few weeks. This time limit seems like so little once he actually begins. Everything is of interest to him and he cannot quite find the time to fit it all.

It is full of rich conversations, humorous sketches and amusing exchanges with the natives who often astonish him with their observations and attitudes. A good-natured work of art through the country's eccentricities as well as its charms, this is an affable companion for any trip to the isle.

This book is not just a catalogue of Bryson jokes, there are idiosyncratic description and some chapters are gems of light travel writing. He seems particularly better at describing cities and town than countrysides.

Overall, 'Notes from the Small Island' presents an informative, personal and mostly warm portrait of this island and its inhabitants.

Reading this, one should not expect beautiful prose or deep insights. However, it makes us laugh over and over again.