Notes From a Small Island – Book Review
Bill Bryson’s hilarious tour of his adopted country: the book that was voted the nation’s favourite book on modern Britain in a World Book Day BBC poll.
After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the States for a while, to let his kids experience life in another country, to give his wife the chance to shop until 10 p.m. seven nights a week, and, most of all, because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, and it was thus clear to him that his people needed him.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 of the nation’s public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that produced Marmite, a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy, place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey and Shellow Bowells, people who said ‘Mustn’t grumble’, and Gardeners’ Question Time.
So light and entertaining and perfect for armchair travelling, there is wit and humour in Bill’s writing that comes from detailed, not so detailed, cynical and heart-warming observations.
It was written quite a while ago, in a premise of nostalgia, and for those who would like to revisit the journeys and adventures of their earlier years, it’s the perfect example of how it should be done.
Thoroughly enjoyable with no effort required to read and chuckle, I’d love to see his thoughts on the UK now, a further 15 years on from this tale.
Book Review by Jacq Ellem