Notes from a Small Island Paperback – Mar 12 1998
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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 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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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.
Bryson is certainly not your average travel writer - as anyone who has read my reviews of his other books knows - and despite his often scathing wit, it's never done with malice, even when very critical of a subject. What astounds me is Bryson's vigor and willingness to put up with all sorts of cold and wet weather. He made his trek during the off-season, i.e., late October, not an especially delightful time of year in Britain. He did not take a car, relying solely on buses and British Rail, a decision that often forced him to make long, out-of-the-way walks of as far as twenty miles, either because schedules didn't
coincide, or the irregular bus did not run during the off-season.
He delightfully intermingles political commentary with travelogue. He visits Blackpool, for example, where there are long beaches - that officially don't exist. "I am not making this up. In the late 1980s, when the European Community issued a directive about the standards of ocean-borne sewage, it turned out that nearly every British seaside town failed to come anywhere near even the minimum compliance levels. Most of the bigger resorts like Blackpool went right off the edge of the turdometer, or whatever they measure these things with. This presented an obvious problem to Mrs.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Same comment as for other books by Bill Bryson.
Did not read it myself by husband is happy
Even more enjoyable the second time around! I first read Bill Bryson's 'Notes From a Small Island" nearly twenty years ago and after many subsequent visits to the 'Small... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Tony Maxwell
I'm from Scotland and just cracked up when he discribed the Glasgow taxi driver's comments. Absolutly
Hilarious. .......had to leave the book for a bit.... Read more
I enjoyed the tone as much as anything. It is wry and dry and sly - suited to the British subject matter! Read morePublished 6 months 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 7 months ago by E.G
Laugh out load funny, very educational while having fun, but all his books are like that.Published 9 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 11 months ago by RW