I have to confess to being a little disappointed by Bill Bryson’s latest book. I had been on the library waiting list for about a couple of months and started it as soon as I picked it up. From the first few pages, I thought I was going to love the book as much as his others. It is full of Bill Bryson’s trademark warmth and gentle humour as well as giving you the story and history behind places he visits. But by the end I was growing a bit weary about hearing of how great everything had been when he did Notes from a Small Island, how dire every High Street had become and how poor customer service was. I was surprised, for example, that he visits Tintagel and fails to comment on how stunningly beautiful it is, focussing instead on the tat shops on the high street and the unliklehood of King Arthur having ever been there. I didn’t care about that when I visited a couple of years back – I was just blown away by the spectacular scenery. (See my photo below for an example)
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading the book because I did. I enjoyed reading about the places that he visited and there were certainly plenty of pages when I had a wee smile to myself and nodded in agreement with Mr Bryson. I also enjoyed hearing about his previous travels to some of the towns and villages he visited and the funny things that happened to him. He has a very easy, entertaining style of writing and I always enjoy reading the more obscure stories which this author seems to unearth. He’s always very informative in his writing and never in a dry way. I just felt that he was turning into a bit of a grumpy old man in this book, which he would probably admit himself.
The Road to Little Dribbling is less of a tour of Britain than of a tour of England and mostly the South of England at that. Scotland barely gets a hurried chapter near the end of the book. Wales also merits just the one chapter and Northern Ireland doesn’t get a look in. I’d like to see Bill Bryson do one of his ramblings around Scotland so he could really do it justice. Or maybe I wouldn’t if he’s still going to be so grumpy! He does redeem himself at the end of the book though by explaining why he still loves Britain citing things like Boxing Day, country pubs and the quiet beauty of the countryside. I’ll allow him this one grumpy book and look forward to being entertained again with his next.
The Road to Little Dribbling was published by DoubleDay on 8th October 2015 in hardback and as an e-book with the paperback due out 7th April. My copy was from the library. You can order here: The Road to Little Dribbling
Back of the book
Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his adopted country. The hilarious book that resulted, Notes from a Small Island, was taken to the nation’s heart and became the bestselling travel book ever, and was also voted in a BBC poll the book that best represents Britain.Now, to mark the twentieth anniversary of that modern classic, Bryson makes a brand-new journey round Britain to see what has changed.
View from Tintagel, Cornwall (July 2014)