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 on 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.
©1998 Bill Bryson; (P)1998 Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, Bantam Doubleday Dell, A Division of Random House Inc.
My path and Mr. Bryson's were reversed - I grew up in Yorkshire and have spent the last twenty years living in the US. This may not be the best guide book to the UK, but as a love letter to a wonderfully imperfect but perfectly wonderful place, I thought he nailed it. I got "the look" from my wife several times because I was laughing too loudly. I enjoyed this more than "A Walk In The Woods" and "I'm a Stranger Here Myself".
Bryson writes so well that you regret the need to put his books down. His descriptions of the UK are right on, and his love of the place and of his family touch the reader in an unprepared for way. If you are traveling to the UK read this book, if you have ever traveled to the UK read this book, if you never intend to go anyway near the UK, read this book.
I enjoyed this episode in Bill Bryson's life. It was obvious that his adopted country was a place he loved dearly, and who could blame him after living the the "Dales" for so long; it's a wonderful place. But home always calls you, even after 20 years. His style of humor is always funny. I dont always agree with his opinions, but his writing is always amusing. I particularly enjoyed his chosen method of transportation and his appropriate lack of planning. It had me chuckling for hours.
Maybe you had to have been there to get it. Each of the towns melded together, and while the book was entertaining, I didn't take away very much from this one.
If you've read any of Bill Bryson's other books you know what to expect. He writes as though he's having a conversation with you, telling you about his latest discovery, which may or may not be interesting, but his telling of it most certainly will be. In the case of "Notes From a Small Island," Bryson invites you to see things from the perspective of an American who's made Great Britain his home for the past twenty years. So, whether you're American or British, you have something to learn from his unique perspective. His figurative language alone would make his books worth reading.
My main complaint with all the Bryson audible books is that he narrates them. I have no doubt that his ability to pronounce and emphasize words just the way he intended them is an advantage. But he sounds as though he has swollen tonsils, and coupled with a tendency to raise and lower his voice, there were times when I had to guess at what he was trying to say. Then, near the end, someone thought it would be a good idea to pop in a random bit of music and it was even harder to hear his voice over the instruments. Despite all this, I will most likely listen to more Bryson books, because they make wonderful companions on walks or while doing chores.
I love best the ones that Bryson narrates himself. He's a wonderful storyteller. Although his books seem to be about nothing much, certainly not a travel guide. They are vastly entertaining.
Perhaps if the narration had been done by a professional who could make English accents come alive, it might have been more amusing and then, possibly worth the purchase. As it was, Bryson's beleaguered, monotone delivery left much to be desired. In addition, the author's penchant for references to condoms, sperm, ejaculation, etc. added absolutely nothing to the narrative and did not endear me to this particular author.
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