After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson-bestselling author of The Mother Tongue and Made in America-decided to return to the United States. ("I had recently read," Bryson writes, "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.") But before departing, he set out on a grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.
Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie's Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile.
"Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it."
I had been curious about this book for some time and I was sent a copy for my birthday this year so I was thrilled.
It started off well, even if it came across as Bill Bryson painting a less than good picture of England (most especially up north). This wasn't an enjoyable book for me as the author comes across as derogatory, hostile, offensive and arrogant.
There were better moments in the book where a softer side shows through, especially at the end where you would hardly believe it was the same person.
A quote on the cover said: "Hilarious and observant", yet another quote said "Bryson is unparalleled in his ability to cut a culture off at the knees in a way that is so humorous and so affectionate that those being ridiculed are laughing too hard to take offense".
Speaking as someone who was born and raised in England I can safely say I often didn't find it hilarious or affectionate and at times I found it very easy to take offense. That was a shock to me as I am usually really difficult to offend. The main saving grace for this book is that it did allow me the luxury of revisiting many familiar places that are close to my heart and it brought me many moments of fond memories. For that I will always cherish this thoughtful gift and I will still be checking out this author again at some point, if only to sate my curiosity as to whether I would prefer some of his other books.
Author's website http://www.randomhouse.com/features/billbryson/