Notes From A Small Island Paperback – 1 Aug 1996
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Bill Bryson is an unabashed Anglophile who, through a mistake of history, happened to be born and bred in Iowa. Righting that error, he spent 20 years in England before deciding to repatriate: "I had recently read that 3.7 million Americans according to a Gallup poll, believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people needed me." That comic tone enlivens this account of Bryson's farewell walking tour of the countryside of "the green and kindly island that had for two decades been my home."
"Not a book that should be read in public, for fear of emitting loud snorts" (The Times)
"Laugh-out-loud funny" (The Good Book Guide)
"Splendid... What's enjoyable is that there's as much of Bryson in here as there is of Britain" (Sunday Telegraph)
"Bryson is funny because he is not afraid to give completely of himself" (Daily Express)
Top Customer Reviews
Bill Bryson has an insightful view of Britain and the British that can only come from living 'among us' for a considerable period.
His understanding of the British people is uncanny and more akin to that of a Brit who has lived in the US for a long time, rather than an American that has lived in Britain.
I spent much of my time while reading the book laughing out loud in public places (which I know is not the done thing for an Englishman - sorry !)
This book asks some of the same qustions I asked when I returned to my native Britain from a period living in the USA.
I finished the book in 2 days and immediately sought out the only English language copy of Bryson's other classic 'Notes from a Big Country' in Istanbul.
But that's another story...
From the moment he steps off the ferry and spends the night in a shelter on Dover promenade, Bill Bryson's fascination with all things British becomes a lifetime's work.
Often self-deprecating, openly admiring, occasionally critical. His journey encompasses the inexplicable - e.g. couples sitting outside a beach hut in a gale happily trying to read the Daily Mirror; the mundane - e.g. our collective fondness for small, hard, whitish biscuits; and the glorious - e.g. the staggering vistas of the Yorkshire Dales.
Like a good stand-up impressionist, Bryson again and again finds our defining tics, twitches and mannerisms which make his readers chuckle and wince in recognition. "Oh yes" you'll remark, "we do that don't we."
A lovely book that you'll return to often.
I love this book, and I love its American successor, Notes from a Big Country too. In this one, his whimsical tour through Britain and his reflections on what makes us the people and place that we are is truly hilarious.
Bryson has respect for those things which are most important in any country, but little respect for the traditional tourist trail and sentimental tripe. He can surely claim honorary Brit status, should he and the family (Mrs Bryson and the children, including "little Jimmy", the child that never was) ever plan to return to the UK.
A Walk in the Woods is also well worth a read, for those who got to know Bryson's old school friend Stephen Katz in the chronicle of their adolescent meander through Europe, Neither Here or There. He is a hardier man than he looks!
But of them all, Notes from a Small Island remains my favourite, because it reminds me why despite all my moans, I still love this country. Those who say Americans have no sense of irony have obviously never read Bill Bryson's book; he has it in buckets.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Brilliant! Loved every minute of it, so much so that I have have bought 2 further copies for friends birthday gifts. Read morePublished 12 days ago by kimmy
Mixed feelings about this book. Kept on reading in the hope it would become more interesting. Got to the end and it hadn't!!Published 20 days ago by Heliotrope
I loved every page ! The fact that Bill Bryson can transport me to places I haven't even heard of, is magical ! A giggle on most pages being a massive bonus .Published 1 month ago by Mrs. Kate Ramsden
I have to bestow a maximum upon this. If only for the irony of an American showing us all why Britain will always be prefaced with Great.Published 1 month ago by barrie reader