Twenty years ago Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his adopted country. The hilarious book that resulted, Notes from a Small Island, was taken to the nation’s heart and became the best-selling travel book ever and was voted in a BBC poll the book that best represents Britain.
Now, to mark the 20th anniversary of that modern classic, Bryson makes a brand-new journey around Britain to see what has changed. Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath, by way of places that many people never get to at all, Bryson sets out to rediscover the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly unique country that he thought he knew but doesn’t altogether recognize any more.
Yet, despite Britain’s occasional failings and more or less eternal bewilderments, Bill Bryson is still pleased to call our rainy island home. And not just because of the cream teas, a noble history, and an extra day off at Christmas.
Once again, with his matchless homing instinct for the funniest and quirkiest, his unerring eye for the idiotic, the endearing, the ridiculous and the scandalous, Bryson gives us an acute and perceptive insight into all that is best and worst about Britain today.
Download includes accompanying PDF map of the Bryson Line. Music written and performed by Richard Digance, inspired by The Road to Little Dribbling.
©2015 Bill Bryson (P)2015 Recording and music (p) Transworld Audiobooks
I am a Bryson fan girl so of course I loved the book but the narrator, Nathan Osgood, made it so much better! I heard and re-heard some parts because they were so impeccable.
Really annoying read.
Chosen a reader who got the style.
This reader thought he was reading a thriller not a laconic, witty travelogue. It sounded as though he had been handed the book 30 secs before the read - the sentences took him by surprise or, maybe, he just has no idea of the structure of a sentence. So often the emphasis would be on the noun rather than the adjective - greenBELT, roundABOUT. The only saving grace was that he had swotted up on how to pronounce the place names correctly. But the style of the book was, clearly, a complete mystery to him.
No editing, just a producer.
Has Bill Bryson heard this audio book?
Academic and author of books on 19th-20th century history & literature.
A strong infusion of Bryson's wit and eye for oddity -- from 15 years back.
Certainly - anything by Bryson is worth looking at.
I bow to nobody in my admiration for Bryson. I've read all his books as they came out and there are comic scenes in many of them that made me laugh out loud - a rare thing. To my mind, his 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' is a book I'd like to see put in the hands of every intelligent 14 year old who is interested in how the world got to be the way it is and humans' place in it. Bryson has, or had, a huge gift for making a popular synthesis of history and science. This book is serious disappointment. The witty persona he has cultivated through his career seems to be dissolving in all round grouchiness and moaning about Britain, his adopted homeland. His constant bitching about prices of sandwiches etc does not amuse, coming from someone who must (deservedly) be a rich man. Similarly, his pose of ingenuousness, attractive in earlier books, rings hollow here. Among other things, I simply don't believe Bryson has never heard of the painter Leighton, as he claims! Large chunks of the book, especially the biographical vignettes, have the air of being paraphrased from Wikipedia. Also his regular laments about not being able to recall things that happened 2 weeks ago are disconcerting. I suppose Bryson has reached the stage where his publishers are happy to slap anything he writes between covers and push it out. What a shame. The narrator, though, does a very sound job in the circumstances.
This is the first time ever, that Mr Bryson has disappointed me. Sure the book is an easy read/listen. I found his views rather distasteful at times. Using the word 'vegetable' when referring to a person he'd like to assault was rather poor. His views of the changing culture in Britain were more sarcasm than humour. Far too many sentences related to his behaviour and attitude towards others than necessary. Base and rather vulgar language was unnecessary. After 19 chapters I gave up. About to re-listen to a Walk in the Woods to renew my faith.
"I think Bill would rather have stayed at home."
I usually love Bill Bryson's books but was disappointed with this one.It wasn't helped by the narrator who would have been ideal for a crime novel but did not convey the usual cheery,cheeky whimsy we expect from BB. By his tone I felt that he would much rather have stayed at home with his family and not been forced by the need of gathering material to go trailing about the country.He goes on too much about London which was boring and I don't know why he bothered going to Scotland at all. He spent most of the time in a sleeper (well at least he was safe from being "nutted" by the violent population in a sleeper) and it just felt like he couldn't really be bothered.Anyone who doesn't like a tunnocks tea cake is rather odd in my humble, Scottish non violent view.
"Curl Up and Dye in Grimsby!"
I must get a criticism out of the way first - the title, Little Dribbling. Perhaps Bryson's editor thought it was a good title or perhaps Bryson himself did - but it's not. It's not funny but IS mocking which gives an entirely wrong impression of the book - enough to put any half-serious reader off because the book IS funny and ISN'T mocking. It may be justifiably critical in many places, but it's not mocking. Overall it's a deeply affectionate view of England, a place Bryson loves and cares deeply about.
Some readers may find they like the Bill Bryson of Notes on a Small Island better than the Bryson of Little Dribbling. They may find him carping and critical and constantly going on about how stupid people can be, how ugly town centres are, how everything costs too much and how we're surrounded by crass grammatical errors. But a lot has happened since Notes on a Small Island, not least Bryson is 20 years older - his memory is longer and can therefore judge how things have changed, and yes, he's less tolerant. And Britain has changed. Bryson tells the truth, even if it's unpalatable.
So what you get is Britain NOW with its crazy scheme for HS2 to rip through the countryside at unimaginable financial cost to make the journey to Birmingham 20 minutes faster; praise for the hugely improved London Underground and a very funny account (not so funny if you consider the questions he was asked) of his written test for his British citizenship taken in Eastleigh, an occasion for poor Eastleigh to get the Bryson treatment with its interchangeable coffee shops, charity shops and closed-down shops.
There's plenty that Bryson loves - our countryside is the best anywhere, the Lake District (apart from the cars) is idyllic, no landscape in the world is 'more lovely to behold'. He's drawn to the quirky and odd which makes listening constantly interesting and often funny - like the Grimsby hairdressers in the title of this review. Why should we British be more frightened of cows rather than bulls? (Americans wouldn't even BE in a field with either, so it doesn't apply to them). He treats us to a multitude of potted biographies of people he had never heard of - Lord Leighton with his pictures of naked girls; Billy Butlin; the unfortunate Member of Parliament Huskisson, the first person to be killed by a train....
So if you want to be thoroughly entertained, laugh out loud, go to parts of Britain you may never have visited, come on board. The narrator is American which underlines the fact that even though Bryson is a British citizen and well-embedded in British society, he's still able to observe in ways we can't.
"funny, perceptive and grumpy"
I did love it - funny and interesting, but isn't he getting grumpy? I thought of how I embarrassed myself on a train by laughing often at "Neither Here Nor There", many years ago. This is as entertaining. I was able to compare my perceptions of many places with Bill Bryson's, as well as the pros and cons of attitudes in the UK and USA. I enjoyed listening on a tablet whilst flipping to follow his progress on a map.
" The Bryson line" notion was rather pretentious and irrelevant.
He slated aspects of our ways, interspersed with restating often how world beating a view or concept is. He'd receive better responses on his travels by being less snippy. But it's a "must read" for Bryson fans.
"Sweet and Sourer."
Best when he intereacts with people. Worst - sorry naration.
Always, admire and enjoy his work, just this time has a slightly bitter edge to it. Being a Yorkshireman myself, I can see he has taken on some of the Yorkshire characteristics.
No, made Bill Bryson sound sour, I don't understand why Bill Bryson uses other narators, when he does it himself you become more empathetic to his point of view. Seems to have a random approach to having himself read his books or use someone else.
Will listen again just to make sure I am not being unfair in assesment.
"Rambling and grumbling but charming as ever"
I confess that I love Bill Bryson. He may be grumpy, and occasionally even unkind, but generally his comments are just and well argued. Most noticeable in this book is the fact he has got a bit older and crankier and his nit-picking about the price of tea, cake and entrance to National Treasures is hilarious. Like in all his other books there are some really funny encounters but one of the things I found most striking is when he describes a perilous situation involving a toddler. It was nail biting but also very moving and is a great example of why he is such an engaging and skilful writer. I may be a long term inhabitant of the UK but Bill has managed to tell me about things I never knew existed and when he does describe things I do know I can’t help recognising and agreeing with his observations.
I enjoyed the narrator and to me he sounded reassuringly like the author, so was a very good choice.
"Cor blimey Mary Poppins!"
Within a few minutes the first ghastly attempt at an English accent popped up and I was transported back to Dick van Dyke's chimney sweep. I had to seriously consider aborting the listen but decided to see if they got any better. Generally they didn't. The Liverpudlian one in particular was terrible.
The story was ok with some interesting parts and it spent a long time in areas with which I am familiar so it was interesting to hear the author's opinions. Overall though the lasting impression was of dodgy English accents.
"Narration not great"
I think this would be better as a physical book as the narrator's clunky pronunciation of British place names throws it off course sometimes. I do enjoy Bryson's books but he can be a bit of a grumpy old man. I'm not sure this added a great deal to his previous book on Britain and it is a bit Southern centric considering it's supposedly based on the premise of travelling from South to North along a specific line Bryson invented.
"Another great book. Let down by the narrator"
Another great romp through our small island. Entertaining as ever and hopefully have more travel books from the master of wit and story telling.
The wit and frankness of Bill is as amusing as ever. Saying things we all think.
Good narrator but really enjoyed William Roberts with the previous books, who is the master narrator of the previous travel books. Why didn't he read this?
Bring back William Roberts!
"A pleasing rant"
This was a pleasing rant- I found myself recognising many of Bryson's comic observations on us British and our way of life. Perhaps it takes an American to really know us! The main criticism of the book is that it has a tendency to repeat itself. I found myself checking where I was as I though I had already listened to this this part.
Nathan Osgood's narration is excellent- I feel it is Bill Bryson actually speaking to me! His impression of different British regional accents, and ways of saying things, is also first class.
A light read, but with some unexpected insights into some 'hidden' aspects of British history. Did you know how our road numbering system was arrived at? Neither did I, but I'll never look at a road number again in the same way!
"Bill Bryson continued"
Bill Bryson's style of writing.
Bill Bryson, he's about the only person in it to any appreciable extent.
No, Bill's whinging about GB, meant that I had to listen to it in short bursts.
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