zondag 29 januari 2017

"The Road to Little Dribbling" by Bill Bryson

“The rooms were small and airless and cramped. To make matters worse, somebody in our group was making the most dreadful silent farts. Fortunately, it was me, so I wasn’t nearly as bothered as the others.”

When you feel like having a good laugh, reading a book by Bill Bryson is always a safe bet. I've read all of his travel books, and I've smiled, grinned, giggled, laughed out loud and literally rolled on the floor laughing, unaware of the people around me, who were probably wondering what was wrong with me. Luckily, that was usually only my wife, who should know me by now. 

Anyway, one of those books was "Notes From a Small Island", an account of his first visit to Britain, a classic in humourous travel literature. Now, twenty years after that book, Bryson is back with another book about Great Britain, a country he has lived in for most of his life. So he travels around Britain again, with his keen sense of observation and his critical mind as his sole companions.

As always, the book is full of anecdotes and self-mockery, and Bryson has lots of interesting ànd funny things to say about the oddest subjects. Really, he is able to make it fascinating to read about things like the British road numbering system, spelling mistakes, or even the hairs growing out of his nose and ears. He stares in wonder at the glorious countryside, or the beautiful villages and towns he visits, but he comes down hard on stupid and rude people and he's devasted by the disappearance of so many wonderful things he encountered when he first travelled the country. He may have got a bit grumpier in his old age, but that only adds to the fun. Bryson evidently still loves Britain, but during his travels, it becomes clear that he feels the country is going downhill in many respects. His conclusion speaks for itself:

“It occurred to me, not for the first time, that if Britain is ever to sort itself out, it is going to require a lot of euthanasia.”

It isn't really necessary to read "Notes from a Small Island" first, but you might as well do just that, because it's absolutely brilliant. "The Road to Little Dribbling" may not be quite on the same level as the aforementioned "Notes..." or "Neither Here Nor There", but it's still that safe bet you were looking for.

Author: Bill Bryson
Title: The Road to Little Dribbling
Publisher: Black Swan, London
Year: 2015
Number of pages: 477 p.
ISBN: 9780552779838

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