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Notes from a Small Island Paperback – Mar 12 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 214 customer reviews

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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 214 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,168 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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a book I have been meaning to read for quite some time. It was recommended to me by one of my friends who I spent 4 months with in Oxford, England. I don't know what took me so long to finally get to it, but I am glad that I did.
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.
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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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Format: Paperback
England ain't what it usta be.
"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.
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Format: Paperback
It all started with A Walk in the Woods. A friend loaned it to me, and almost didn't get it back. Then he loaned me Notes From a Small Island, but with a warning. "You may not like this as much," he said, "I didn't even finish it. But give it a go." Curious about his tepid reaction to the book, I took it with me to jury duty. I sat in the cafeteria, literally laughing out loud. I could have gotten off a case by pleading insanity -- I'm sure that's what people at the surrounding tables were thinking. Bryson's turn of phrase is truly magical. His appreciation for England, for people, for family, is deep. His observations are so well-worded, they give you chills. Two of his passages made it into my journal of quotable-quotes. So I got through half the book at jury duty. Cut to my couch at home. I'm reading the latter half of the book, and come across his description of his drunken attempt to get back to his hotel after an evening at the pub. Downhill. I tell you, I was crying, I was laughing so hard. It's hard to get me to chuckle, and forget LAUGH, during a comedic movie, much less a book. I reread the paragraph two or three times, like rewinding a scene on video tape, and laughed harder and harder. Bryson is a gift to readers who love good writing. And a good laugh.
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