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Notes from a Small Island Paperback – Mar 12 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (March 12 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771017049
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771017049
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.9 x 20 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (212 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #105,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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 an alternate 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 the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nuts About Books on March 22 2005
Format: Paperback
Like many people, I read this book during an airplane flight, while returning from one of my semi-regular trips to the UK. This is one of those books that make you howl with laughter despite the odd looks from strangers alongside. It's a perfect book to read while travelling, or indeed just about anywhere. If you are at all familiar with England (and I mean on a first-hand basis, NOT by watching Hugh Grant movies), you are going to find this book screamingly funny. If not, it will probably make you want to visit the UK. Bill Bryson is no twee, chocolate-boxy travel writer - he relates all the disasters along with the fun, in a manner that reminds you that most so-called travel disasters are never as bad as they seem. Bryson is not entirely uncritical of his adopted nation (and that's the fun part), but he's never nasty - and it's plain that his enthusiasm for England and all things English comes from deep in his heart.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joanna D. on Oct. 22 2002
Format: Paperback
Bill Bryson is usually known for books that provoke an uncontrollable urge to laugh out loud while reading them. That's certainly true of "A Walk in the Woods" where Bryson and a bibulous friend try manfully to hike the Appalacian Trail. It's not so true in "Notes from a Small Island."
Bryson doesn't have his hapless friend Katz along on this jaunt, a walking trip through Great Britain. But his sense of humor is intact and his eye sharp for local foibles. My favorite observation was actually his description of the boundless joy the British express when presented with a steaming hot cup of tea. "Ah, lovely..." At the fifth repetition of this, you begin to appreciate Bryson's description of the British people and their funny rules, such as one that applies to public paths (you can cut right through anything that lies on a public way, and Bryson struts through some remarkable places exercising this right.) He takes the predictable potshots at British Rail and the propensity for tearing down quaint buildings and putting up steel and concrete monstrosities, a trait that Americans seem to share with their British progenitors; I myself felt strangely at home in Birmingham--it could have been any American city except for driving on the wrong side of the road.
While this book was not as scream-with-laughter funny as "Walk in the Woods", it had its moments. If you are a Bryson fan you might be a bit disappointed as this books is a bit subdued compared to his others. And Katz is nowhere to be found. But if you don't require to be entertained every single page, you probably will find this an amusing book. I did.
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Format: Audio Cassette
Bill Bryson first came to the attention of the British public through the readings from his book of a journey across the USA, 'The Lost Continent'. That was on BBC Radio Four, it was back in 1993, and it was read by Kerry Shale. Unfortunately, such was the impact of those readings that for much of the British public, Kerry Shale still IS Bill Bryson. Shale has much the same cynicism as Bryson, but his voice is tougher, and a bit more no-nonsense.
So when you first listen to Bryson reading 'Notes from a Small Island', it comes as a bit of a shock that Bryson's true voice is more softly-spoken, and a little camper. To my ear, his accent sounds a little more southern states than I would expect from Iowa, but that shows you how much I know. Bryson never tries to hide his American accent -- even when imitating old English crones or drunken Scotsmen.
Bryson gives the view of the outsider, despite his having lived in England for 20 years when he wrote the book. If he makes the odd error of judgement, we forgive him. But most of the time he is dead right about the British towns and cities he visits during his seven-week tour. He exposes our quaint eccentricities -- both the ones we knew we had and some that we didn't.
My feeling is that Bryson is so popular with the British listener because it is clear that, despite his criticisms, he loves the place and the people. This is no gratuitous American 'I love the UK' simply to buy popularity -- even the foreign tennis players at Wimbledon have worked out that the quickest way to our affections is to say this is their favourite venue. Bryson's love of Great Britain is deeply felt.
In this audio CD, he takes us to many places we'd never even heard of, let alone places that we'd told ourselves we must visit some day.
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Format: Paperback
Before returning to America from England in 1994, Bill Bryson (A WALK IN THE WOODS, A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING) embarked on a grand farewell tour around the "green and kindly island" that had been his adopted home for twenty years (pp. 5; 118). On his seven-week pilgrimage, Bryson happily travels (via public transportation and by foot) from Dover, through Bournemouth and coastal villages, to London, Liverpool (his favorite English city), the Lake District, Wales, Scotland, and back to his home in Yorkshire. With its 445,000 ancient or historic buildings, 12,000 midieval churches, 1.5 million acres of common land, 120,000 miles of public footpaths, and 600,000 archeological sites, Bryson observes, "you could spend your life moving from stone circle to Roman settlement (remains of) to ruined abbey, and never see but a fraction of them even in a small area" (p. 94) of the country where people put milk in their tea, drive on the left side of the road, and eat cheese-and-pickle sandwiches.
NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND is Bryson at his best. In his book, NEITHER HERE NOR THERE, having lost his sense of "private astonishment" for Europe, Bryson found very little to praise about his midlife, rucksack travels through Paris, Florence, Brussels, Stockholm, Rome. As hard as he tried in that book, Bryson was unable to recapture his youthful sense of wonder for Europe again. But this is not the case with NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND, which is a series of Bryson "notes" written from the heart. We find Bryson exclaiming, "God, I love this country" (p. 261), and describing his "new and mysterious and exciting" (p. 14) subject with a "sense of wonder" (p. 5) and a sustained "state of small excitation" (p. 53).
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