Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Notes from a Small Island

Arriving in England in the early 1970's, American travel writer Bill Bryson worked as a journalist and editor for a number of British newspapers. In 1994 he made the decision to bring his family back to America. But before doing so he decided to take a trip around the island he'd called home for so long.

I've read many of Bill Bryson's books over the years: 'A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country. I've always enjoyed his ability to mix humor with the scholarly, and his ability to cast himself as the everyman, Iowan that he once was.

In this homage to Britain, a place where he married and raised his kids, Bryson sounds as much like a Briton as an Iowan. Bryson travels by rail and on foot through the tiny towns and great cities of late 20th century Great Britain. He  reflects on the places he's been, and what's changed in Britain and himself as the years have passed. At times he's laugh out loud funny, at other times, borderline offensive, but nearly 20 years on, it's still one of the great travelogues, and one of my favorites. When my boys were babies and I'd grown tired of reading, 'Good Night Moon,' for the millionth time I would lay on their floor and read chapters aloud from it, laughing at Bryon's depictions of the people he met as he walked around the island that was once at the heart of the British Empire. When I went to England in 2007 I brought it along with me and wrote notes in the margins about what I saw in the Cotswolds. 

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