Notes from a small Island: A review

available from amazon.co.uk

I picked up this book to try to understand better this country I've lived in the last 10 years.  Bill Bryson is a very funny man and as a fellow US expat I figured who better to explain England.  I finished the book in about 3 weeks.

He travelled around some of the strangest towns in the book...not just the touristy spots like London, Oxford, etc. In a weird way hitting the small unknown places is the best way to truly find out about a country.  Its always why I prefer to walk instead of taking cabs or trains everywhere when I travel.  You're more likely to see things that you would miss otherwise.

The book reflected England- pretty quiet mixed in with a few bits of excitement.  I'm not surprised because there's not much to do besides sit in pubs, go to Marks and Spencers or hit the walking trails outside of the big cities which is what he did.  But it suits people so why change?

The really funny parts were Brysons efforts in understanding some of the accents (oh my Glasgow... that was funny), his description of tea biscuits and how strange it is that the English name their subway stops like something out of Jane Austen novels (Its true...very true) and their towns...well I dont know how they come up with the names for towns like they do ( like cockfosters, are you serious?).  The names of English towns, well thats an entirely different post.

I did get a better understanding about the concept of British politeness and non-complaining and the idea of never showing your emotions.  I appreciate how cool it is to have so much history in such a small place and how beautiful this little island really is with all its hedgerows, tea drinkers, red postal boxes and cloudy rainy days.

I was appreciative to Bryson for also showing me that I could embrace this country (I know, 10 years...whats my problem.) without giving up my identity with my own people.  Its one of the hardest parts of being an expat, figuring out where you belong.

So thanks Bill for another great read.......now if you could just write books on relationship advice...???

(Just Kidding)


AshleyT said...

I travel to the UK about every other month and finally moving there in September. Can't wait to read this book!

christine said...

Good Luck on the move Ashley. :)

Mel said...

I felt the same reading this book although I read it at about 2 years into my life here. I am German and you'd think that considering, it's only about one hour in a plane away it wouldn't be such a culture shock: But boy it was. Now almost 8 years in this country and I still sometimes slip up, but I know longer try to fit in at all cost. I am me, I live here, it's good and I love England a lot, but hey I am German too... just can't leave that bit at the border can I?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! Will pick this up. I love getting the 'inside' peek at places (even if i don't live there!)