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Lost the plot...
on 14 August 2016
I've read most of Bill Bryson's books (some of them more than once) but sadly this is the first of his that I couldn't finish.
On returning to the US after a hiatus of nearly 10 years, Bryson decides to take a road trip of almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical town call Amalgam. Along the way he encounters the small towns of his childhood, often only glimpsed from the back seat of his family's car as they made the long trek from Des Moines, Illinois to their chosen vacation destination (often over 1,000 miles away).
The overwhelming negativity Bryson imbues throughout the book is downright depressing. Nothing is safe, from the small towns and their supposed faceless main streets, to the local residents and their apparent backwater attitudes to visitors, everything is a target for Bryson's pessimistic barbs.
Quite what he was expecting to find on his trip or how he comes to the conclusions he does however, is unclear. Forty years have elapsed since he last undertook this kind of journey, so to expect these places to have remained unchanged is more than a little short-sighted (especially for a travel writer). He also never takes the time to have a proper conversation with a local resident about the town he's in, choosing instead to mock the way they talk, the way they dress or their apparent lack of education.
It's disheartening to think that such an entertaining and humorous writer as Bryson usually is, has been reduced to this. It's definitely not up to his usual standard of writing and if this were the first of his books I'd read, I certainly wouldn't be tempted to read any others. Disappointing and definitely one to avoid if you're a Bryson fan.