I’ve just finished reading a book by one of my favourite authors, Bill Bryson; The Road to Little Dribbling”. For those that don’t know who Bill is (I’m not on first name terms with him, but it’s easier to call him that rather than his whole name all the time!), he is an american author who can be considered to be an anglophile after living in England for a number of years ever since meeting his wife, more detail of which can be found in Notes from a small Island.
He has written a number of books over the years, but the one which drew me to him originally was A walk in the woods which I pinched off my dad. Bill’s acerbic views of people around him was hilarious and for most of this book I was in tears from laughing so much. Indeed on re-reading it a few years later on the train I got no end of strange looks with my eyes streaming and me having to hold my nose to try and not laugh out loud!
And this theme runs through all of his books, and one which when I received The Road to Little Dribbling as a birthday present, I looked forward to reading immensly. However, I admit there was some trepidation on my part, with the book receieving mainly mixed reviews, many of the critics stating that the book seemed to have been written in a hurry, and that Bill seemed to have a much darker outlook of Britain these days and that ruins what he is about. But, in a point I have made in an earlier post, everyone’s views are always different, and ultimately it should be down to you as a reader who makes the choice of whether to read the book or not. I’ve seen another blogger (apologies if it’s you and you’re reading this, if I remember your name I’ll credit you!) who put the point across succinctly, just because a book may not be in the Waterstones/Guardian book of the week award winner doesn’t make it any less of a book! And that’s what I’ll say for the latest offering by Bill!
Ok, compared to his earlier books, his views on the world have changed some which is evident in the book, but Bill’s books are written from an autobiographical perspective, using memories and locations and people he meets to draw out the stories and in turn flesh out the book. It is therefore only going to be natural that the author’s view point will change over time as he gets older, this is a natural progression for anyone, what I liked as a kid and my attitude then is completely different to how it is now. So for me then this book just reflects that change but without any detriment to the book.
The book overall is about Bill and his journey around Britain to mark the 20th Anniversary of his Notes from a Small Island and what has changed in that time. I have read this book too, but it’s been a while and I can’t remember the nitty gritty details, but suffice to say I found his views on Modern Britain entirely agreeable. And I laughed at the irony of it, ok Bill has dual nationality now, but ultimately he is obviously american, but you’d expect him to be virtuous of the american way of life, instead he has enjoyed living in Britain so long (he is in my eyes more of a british person than an american now!) that he atually prefers our way of life. And in this book, he talks about how we are losing what makes Britain great, including our scandalous treatment of our countryside. I too find it a crying shame how more and more is being lost to development and worry about the future of the countryside should it carry on at this rate. However, suffice to say, the author manages to get his point across in his usual manner, and with the people and places he visits, he manages to intertwine moments of hilarity with such seriousness that you do find yourself reflecting on a number of issues. It helps being a native of Britain too in that I recognised just about all of the locations he visited, including Derbyshire where I now live!
As with all good books, this one left me ruing the end, not wanting Bill to finish his trip to head home to his family (selfish of me I know!). It is for that reason that I’d urge you to give this book a go no matter where you are from, whether you are new to his books or not, as this to me gives the most honest outlook of life in modern Britain (it isn’t all doom and gloom!) and may inspire you to read his other books (I hope so!). Obviously my review is very biaised towards Bill (I would love to be his mate, going to the local pub and discussing the joys and moans of life, I reckon with my sarcastic nature we’d get on very well together!) but that shouldn’t detract you from trying any new book in life!