Notes from a Small Island Hardcover – Sep 7 1995
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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. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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 an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
As an American living in England, Bryson is familiar with their culture, their way of life, their idiosyncrasies. His descriptions of English manners and formalities are dead-on. He speaks often of the dry wit and humor that he admires so much in the English people; Bryson himself is a master of this, making me laugh out loud with his summaries and interactions.
This truly is an "affectionate" portrait of Britain, as the book is subtitled. Part travel-narrative, part memoir, "Notes From a Small Island" gives the good along with the bad. As Bryson ruminates between his recent travels along Britian to memories of past trips/his experiences living there, he offers what he loves and loathes about the nation he has come to call home and will miss when he returns to his native land. He speaks with admiration and enthusiasm on the vast number of treasures and historical sites the English have in such a small area, yet many of these have been neglected when they should be revered.
Bryson's final tour around Britian before heading back to America, takes him to some typical tourist destination cities, but he offers an insider's view of places the average tourist may never encounter. As someone who has lived in England, it is usually the places off the beaten track that are the best places to visit. I miss it almost as much as Bryson.
"Clearances" have devastated the traditional countryside, driving people off their little farms as lords and landlords merge parcels of empty land together to create modern productive farms.
Ooops! That's the complaint from a couple of hundred years ago. Today's whine, articulately offered by Bryson, is that England's hedgerows are disappearing. In addition, city planners make a mess of things. My, my, isn't progress terrible! Just think, if we don't hold onto the past . . . the future may happen.
Bryson offers the typical American view of England; a lovely place because of its ancient heritage, and please don't let the natives spoil it for the tourists. Time and again I've seen similar American tourists of limited acumen visit Native American reservations to gaze in awe at rug weaving, basket making, jewelry making and native dances. Whether in England, Mexico or Native American reservations, the request is similar: "Show us your native culture, do a traditional dance for us, sing us a traditional chant or song -- your poverty is so charming and noble."
Such tourists are shocked to find a Burger King in Chinle, the heart of the Navajo Nation, and in any little English village. Bryson is shocked by Milton Keynes, a master-planned community built after World War II; but doesn't compare it to master-planned communities scattered hither and yon with less planning across the US landscape. The US holds the world championship for ravaging the environment; England lags woefully.
His book reads like a collection of supposedly clever newspaper columns patched together in a hurry for a quick book. Granted, England -- like America -- has a lot of problems.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I enjoyed the tone as much as anything. It is wry and dry and sly - suited to the British subject matter! Read morePublished 1 month ago by Lawrence83
Funny for the first bit... but then a bit boring. I got into this after having read some of this other novels, and this one is ok, but not as funny as some of his other work. Read morePublished 1 month ago by E.G
Laugh out load funny, very educational while having fun, but all his books are like that.Published 4 months ago by Lise-Anne Caron
I've been to most of Britain many times and could relate immediately to Bryson's very colourful descriptions and stories. Read morePublished 6 months ago by RW
as expected. Very good book; especially, for someone travelling to UK. This is not a guide; but it gives an interesting background.Published 11 months ago by MD
Mr. Bryson nails what England is like exactly and perfectly. I myself have had similarly bewildering encounters with the english when traveling there, and I was born and raised... Read morePublished 21 months ago by idonotusescreennames
While I will say that Bryson's writing improved over the years, it's hard not to enjoy reading his perspective on the United States. Read morePublished on Aug. 11 2013 by Dennis Myers