On the cusp of becoming a British citizen twenty years after Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson sets off across Britain once again. He partly muses on how things have changed but it’s not a rehashing of his previous book, instead he visits a new selection of places, and corrects the British Citizenship Test whilst he’s at it.
Bill’s travels aren’t really evenly distributed across the British Isles and he spends a lot of time on the South of England. Personally, I loved this as I felt a lot of the places were either familiar or I could quite easily visit them at the weekend. Even though Bill was less than complimentary on the state of Bournemouth, I couldn’t help thinking he has a point (I’m really not sure why it’s so popular apart from the beach). Though he may, or may not, be happy to know the hole where the IMAX was has now been developed with a weird leaf shelter and some spurts of water coming out the ground that makes you feel like it’s permanently flooded.
This was a garden growing on concrete. That is the most extraordinary fact about Britain. It wants to be a garden.
I also learned what the Rufus Stone was, having passed the sign for it many times and assumed it was just a boulder in the forest. Turns out it’s an obelisk (a sort of stone) and it has a story. I didn’t know Arthur Conan Doyle is buried in the New Forest or that most the Shelley family is buried down the road from my work.
Bill does come across as a grumpy old man but on many aspects, I am on his side. There’s plenty of monstrosities marring the once grand cities, towns and countryside and whilst I know we all have to live here and be practical, couldn’t we do it without building ugly things?
Butlin had invented the prisoner-of-war camp as holiday, and, this being Britain, people loved it.
He pretty much whizzes through Scotland on a train, with some brief thoughts about the highlands before he reaches his destination. There’s plenty of musing about train travel amongst the pages, which isn’t entirely irrelevant, but a bit more time taken in places would have been nice. Maybe he’s planning on returning to Scotland and has been saving it for another book…
The Road to Little Dribbling was, in equal measures, funny and interesting. Despite all his grumpiness, he comes across as genuinely fond of our little country. I’m pretty sure if you are a fan of Bill Bryson, you won’t be disappointed. I have seen a few people complain about his swearing but I don’t think it’s more than an average person uses and it does allow for a rather niche philosophy joke which kept me giggling for ages.
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Book Source: Purchased