Two of our staff members share their thoughts on Bill Bryson’s latest travelogue.
Inspired to reprise his “Notes from a Small Island” of twenty years ago, Bryson traveled from the south of Britain at Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath in far northern Scotland with dozens of stops along the way. He laces his travelogue with humor and history and often with a sourpuss attitude I didn’t care for. Visiting many coastal resorts of now faded glory (too many cheap flights available to Spain and the Mediterranean islands) Bryson relates fascinating historical anecdotes and lyrical descriptions of the beautiful English countryside. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Ancient Britain and the mysterious stone circles found in many parts of the country.
Rating: * * * A good read
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Reviewed by: kh
Good travel writing can be tough. But Bill Bryson is different funny, perceptive and poignant. In this book he decides to travel from Bognor Regis in the south of England, to Cape Wrath in Scotland. He chooses the end point mostly because when folks ask him where he’s going he can say “Cape Wrath, God willing.” He gripes about the cost of visiting various museums and bemoaning park and ride lots outside of historic towns (another expanse), while marveling that if you wanted to visit all the medieval churches in the country at the rate of one per week, it would take 308 years?
There’s a lot to like about this island, the 13th largest landmass on the planet, but so slender in profile that no one in the country is ever more than 70 miles from one of its edges. Villages with ridiculous names like Shellow Bowels and Nether Wallop.
And let’s face it, the Brits are ripe for lampooning. He asks what kind of sandwiches are on on offer, the proprietor laconically notes ham and cheese. Bryson says yes please and the shopkeeper looks at him .
‘Yes please what?’
“Yes please, ham and cheese.”
“No it’s ham or cheese.” he explained.
“You don’t do them together? “
“Oh,” I said surprised, then leaned in toward him and in a friendly but confidential tone said “Why not? Too flavorful?”
God willing, there will always be an England.
Rating: * * * * Very, very good
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Reviewed by: Kathleen Hennrikus