Bill Bryson is an author I have always been aware of and curious about. As a teenager working in WH Smiths his name was plastered everywhere. The books were described as “funny and endearing.” I always thought it would be a great way to pique my interest about other countries and cultures that I may never experience. So finally, I decided to purchase one of his books and what did I choose to read about? Well my own country of course!!
In fact, he can be quite scathing in his commentary of places. He willingly points out the absurdity of some of the cultures, or expresses his disbelief as to why the locals behave in the way they do. The book was also quite informative. For example, he will point out why so little money is given to National Parks to preserve the spots we regard so precious and beautiful, yet the government will happily spend money on other pointless ventures. This is all backed up with facts and figures. Whether these are accurate I couldn’t say but it is still insightful nonetheless.
Where Bill likes a place his enthusiasm shines through. I’ve never contemplated travelling to Iverness but the way Bill describes the town I am tempted. His observations of the landmarks are generally spot on and he comments on all the so called tourist attractions good or bad.
It is observations from the local people he encounters on his travels that are the real winner in this book though. Bill provides funny observations as to how the British do things differently to the Americans. Some of these make perfect sense whilst others seem ludicrous. Coupled with these insights are the genuine events that occur to him as he stays in the various bedsits. Some bedsit managers make Basil Fawlty look candid. It is rare that a book makes me laugh out loud, but I did a couple of times in this book. His differences between men and women paragraph was spot on.
The book doesn’t always work. Some of the travelling can sometimes appear a little to meandering and some of the anecdotes Bill recounts are not always interesting or spoil the rhythm of the book. I think reading about a country I am not familiar with will also be more rewarding, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his experience of travelling around the UK and feel proud to be British.
My rating 7.8