The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island

By Bill Bryson

Rating: 2 stars

I loved Notes From a Small Island, and I desperately wanted to love this as well. There are flashes of brilliance, and Bryson is still an excellent travel writer when he’s got something to talk about, but so much of this book comes across as a curmudgeonly old man railing at change and bewildered by the modern world. Partly, you’d expect something like this from the former president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England but partly it comes across as just mean-spirited (for example, an anecdote about how Bryson helped a young worker in a bookshop deal with a mentally ill patient is spoiled by her dismissal as “four foot nothing and practically spherical”).

Supposedly, Bryson is roughly following his imaginary “Bryson Line” (the furthest you could travel in a straight line across Great Britain without crossing salt water), but he meanders so much that the line is pretty much worthless. He also spends most of his time in the south of England; Wales and Scotland are dismissed with a single chapter each and the north of England gets a handful towards the end of the book.

There are still the amusing asides and historical anecdotes for which much of Bryson’s writing is famed, but this is most definitely not vintage Bryson. I wonder if this is explained when he says in the prologue that his publisher has been trying to get him to write a sequel to Notes From a Small Island for years. Is this a book that Bryson just didn’t really want that much to write, but felt pressured into it? I wouldn’t bother with this, stick with Notes From a Small Island or Down Under if you want to read good travel writing.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552779838
Publisher: Black Swan
Year of publication: 2015

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