Notes From A Small Island

Notes From A Small Island

Book - 1996
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After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson, the acclaimed author of such best-sellers as The Mother Tongue and Made in America, decided it was time to move back to the United States for a while. This was partly to let his wife and kids experience life in Bryson's homeland - and partly because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another. It was thus clear to him that his people needed him. But 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. His aim was to take stock of modern-day Britain, and to analyze what he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, zebra crossings, and place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey, and Shellow Bowells. 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.
Publisher: New York : Morrow, c1996.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780688147259
0688147259
Branch Call Number: 914.104 Bry
Characteristics: 324 p. ; 25 cm.

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t
thepudman
Mar 03, 2017

I've listened to several Bryson books and have always enjoyed them. This one, not so much. He comes of as a bit of a pr**k in many cases when he doesn't have patience for the characters he meets along his travels. And, for the audio book - the worst thing is it isn't read by him! For me, that is part of Bryson's appeal. His Australia book (In a sunburned Country ) was much better.

AL_CATHERINE Sep 02, 2016

Bryson is a delightful curmudgeon! His fond farewell trip around Great Britain made me long to go back!

g
ghreads
Aug 11, 2016

This is the first Bill Bryson book I have read. Bryson, after living in Britain for 20 years, is returning with his family to the US for a while. Before leaving, he takes a 7-week farewell tour of the island. These notes describe his experiences in, and reactions to, the countryside, towns and cities he visits. His route, which takes him from Calais to John O’Groats and back to his home in the Yorkshire Dales, is somewhat arbitrary, visiting both well-known cities and obscure towns.

Bryson clearly loves Britain in spite of, or perhaps because of, its peculiarities. Although often critical of the people, the architecture and the institutions, he still loves the country and wants to return to it. The book is well written and laugh-out-loud funny. There is rather too liberal and unnecessary use of the F-word for my taste but this entertaining book is otherwise well worth a read.

This book was written in 1995 and much has happened in Britain since then. My next stop is “The Road to Little Dribbling – More Notes From a Small Island”, published in 2015. I’m curious to see if and how his views have changed in the intervening 20 years. I’m expecting more hearty laughs.

sherry_library Apr 21, 2016

I always start off by enjoying Bill Bryson books but then get turned off by what an angry crank he can be, constantly picking fights with locals everywhere he goes. He is genuinely funny and I love travelogues of all kinds but I wish he didn't have such a massive chip on his shoulder.

r
rb3221
Dec 03, 2015

After living in England for many years, the author takes a farewell tour before moving back to the U.S. It seems unusual that he often doesn't know where is going next, when the trains are running and never has an umbrella in the pouring rain. He offers many critical opinions on the hotels, the food, the lack of town planning but very few comments about the people. I found this rather odd for a travelogue. It seems to be written for a British audience or for someone who has already visited England ( as many of the towns and villages are quite obscure).
The usual Bryson humour is clearly evident but is somewhat sparse. He says Britain may have made a good communist country as they queue patiently for indefinite periods, are comfortable with dictatorships (like Margaret Thatcher) and have boring food. When booking into a local hotel totally soaked the receptionist asks if it is raining out and he answers "No, my ship sank and I had to swim the last seven miles." He marvels at the ingenuity of many Chinese inventions but can't figure out how they haven't "yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to capture food". In being totally disappointed in Pleasure Gardens he says it should be renamed " It's a Pleasure to Take Your Money". There is a great laugh-out-loud section on the differences between women and men shoppers (too long to quote here). The first rule of excessive drinking "is don't take a shine to women bigger than Hoss Cartwright". The other two rules are equally amusing.
Overall it is an enjoyable read but with no great insights and somewhat dated (1995)as a travelogue. In the end Bryson has a high opinion about England and almost wishes he could stay.

JCLBethanyT Aug 28, 2013

Hilarious, observant and delightfully fun to read. My only complaint is that now I want to go visit the UK again!

ManUtdFan Mar 16, 2012

Hilarious read. The best parts are the descriptions of the British B and Bs and their complicated rules.

j
jbeckber
Jan 08, 2012

I've been referring to the BBC's list of the 100 books everyone should read in their lifetime, and this was on it. I'm not sure why actually; it seems to be more of a travel book and no real literary masterpiece to me, but then perhaps it is the BBC being egocentric about the UK? Bill Bryson is an American writer who has lived extensively in Great Britain and took a tour of the "small island" before moving with his family back to the US. The writing is delightfully funny, and made me think fondly on my few trips to the UK. I especially liked the fact that on this trip he went over to Calais to cross into Dover as he had the very first time he entered the UK. It made me think of the first time I made that crossing, as a university exchange student in France accompanying a bunch of British friends home for the Toussaints holidays.

g
gvlee
Sep 09, 2011

You will love this book if you know England. As someone who doesn't, it was mildly amusing.

d
Deena
Aug 04, 2011

I am spending my summer working my way through this wonderful author that everyone in the world seemed to know but me. Love him! Having spent some time in England myself, this book has made me laugh out loud many times. Bill Byrson hits the nail on the head when it comes to the food, the mannerismns, and the general loveliness that is England. Read it, read it, read it!

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