Saturday, February 20, 2010
As an unabashed Anglophile, I am a big fan of Bill Bryson. Even though Bryson was born and raised in Iowa, he lived for much of his professional life in North Yorkshire, England after meeting and marrying his wife while working in the UK following college. In 1995, however, he and his family decided to return to the United States - his observations upon return to the country of his birth are chronicled in I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away, another great Bryson book. I love how he recounts his reasons for returning to the US:
"I had recently read, that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another,so it was clear that my people needed me."
That quote is typical of Bryson's dry wit. His books are found in the travel section of a bookstore but could as esily be shelved in the humor section. Before leaving the UK, he decides to travel the country one final time. Notes from a Small Island is the book that came of that final trip.
Bryson travels through England and stays in charming British towns - each in which he inevitably heads out for a walk and finds a pub for a meal and a good pint. As he completes this ritual in every town, he shares the locale's history, comments on its architecture and topography. That may sound dull but as Bryson conveys it all with his sarcastic wit, it is anything but dull. Furthermore, he peppers these descriptions of the towns with his real specialty - observations of Brits and their customs. From Dover to Bath and to Devon, Bryson offers up his witty commentary on the British. This type of commentary could easily drift into criticism told with a foreigner's superior tone (read my review of Lysall's Anglofiles) but Bryson's affection for the country and its people shines through and makes this humorous travelogue a real winner!