Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to discover and celebrate that green and pleasant land.Read more...
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Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to discover and celebrate that green and pleasant land. The result was Notes from a Small Island, a true classic and one of the bestselling travel books ever written. Now he has traveled about Britain again, by bus and train and rental car and on foot, to see what has changed and what hasn t.
Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis in the south to Cape Wrath in the north, by way of places few travelers ever get to at all, Bryson rediscovers the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly singular country that he both celebrates and, when called for, twits. With his matchless instinct for the funniest and quirkiest and his unerring eye for the idiotic, the bewildering, the appealing, and the ridiculous, he offers acute and perceptive insights into all that is best and worst about Britain today.
Nothing is more entertaining than Bill Bryson on the road and on a tear. The Road to Little Dribbling reaffirms his stature as a master of the travel narrative and a really, really funny guy."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-12-21
- Reviewer: Staff
Bryson returns to his adopted country of Britain to revisit some of his favorite sites in this followup to his bestselling Notes from a Small Island, published in 1996. He discovers that some of these places, like Dorset, a coastal city Bryson describes as "rolling perfection," remain relatively unchanged, while others have changed for better or worse. He reports that Manchester, a city he took to task in his earlier effort, has improved, though many of his compliments are backhanded. As usual, he scatters an entertaining mix of wacky anecdotes and factoids (e.g., during an eight-week period in 2009, four people in Britain were fatally trampled by cows) throughout, but his enduring mix of wonder and irascibility is what carries readers through his travels. His wry observations and self-deprecating humor keep him from coming off as a bitter cynic, and his lyrical way with words keeps the pages turning. (Jan.)
Traversing the sceptered isle
BookPage Nonfiction Top Pick, January 2016
In The Road to Little Dribbling, as in all of Bill Bryson’s travel books, you can be assured of two constants: first, that your guide is a sensualist who immerses himself (and thus, the reader) in all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes he encounters on his wanderings; and second, that along the way he will spot surprises, incongruities and contradictions that he obligingly transmutes into laughter. On this pilgrimage, he invites us to join him as he zigzags the length of Britain, from Bognor Regis in the south to Cape Wrath in the north. (There is, by the way, no Little Dribbling.)
This is not a walking tour, although Bryson is often afoot. At other times he resorts to rail or car. Whatever his vehicle, he takes us to dozens of visit-worthy places we might otherwise never have heard of. Among these are the ancient, man-made Silbury Hill, a 10-story earthen mound near Avebury, and the equally puzzling prehistoric stone towers (or “brochs”) in Glenelg, Scotland, whose purpose has yet to be fathomed.
“There isn’t anywhere in the world with more to look at in a smaller space,” Bryson asserts, noting that Britain has 26 World Heritage Sites and 600,000 known archaeological sites. No detail seems too tiny to escape his eye. In Wales, he notices that the main story on the front page of the local newspaper that reported Dylan Thomas’ death was not about the young bard’s passing but rather about the “mysterious disappearance of a farm couple.”
Bryson’s wry wit abounds. He describes a particularly slow train as “rigor mortis with scenery” and observes that a town in which he finds no charm was “bombed heavily during the Second World War, though perhaps not quite heavily enough.” The history of the Scottish highlands, he reflects, is “five hundred years of cruelty and bloodshed followed by two hundred years of way too much bagpipe music.” Could one hope for a better traveling companion?