Notes from a Small Island is Bill Bryson’s chronicle of journey around Britain in the 90s “for the last time”, right before he and his family moved back to the US. It’s a coincidence that I read this a few months ago, before I knew that his new book was coming, called The Road to Little Dribbling (subtitled More Notes From a Small Island), which is about his journey around Britain in recent years, 20 years after the trip of Notes from a Small Island.
In the same fashion as Neither Here Nor There, which is about Bryson’s journey around Europe in the 90s, it is funny and immensely entertaining. Much the same with Bryson, I wasn’t an Anglophile before I came to London, and turned to one almost immediately right when I stepped on this small island. He did not know when he came here that he’d marry an English woman and call this place home for the next couple of decades (like I didn’t know I’d be here for this long – 4.5 years and counting).
In fact now we know from his sequel to Notes from a Small Island that he and his family did come back to Britain after a few years stint in the US. So clearly their hearts are still here, and that fondness shows in Notes. It might take me a while to read the second book but I hope the warm sentiments were not lost — it doesn’t seem so from a couple of brief reviews that I read.
I probably don’t need to mention it, but you do need to have a great interest in Britain to fully appreciate this book (you don’t need to have lived here). Some quotes really resonate with me, so I was posting them on my instagram as I read:
(If you’re reading this on a feed reader you may not be able to see the pictures below, so please jump to my page :)
“I can never understand why Londoners fail to see that they live in the most wonderful city in the world. It is far more beautiful and interesting than Paris, if you ask me, and more lively than anywhere but New York – and even New York can’t touch it in lots of important ways. It has more history, finer parks, a livelier and more varied press, better theaters, more numerous orchestras and museums, leafier squares, safer streets, and more courteous inhabitants than any other large city in the world.” – Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson #currentlyreading #London #LoveLetterToLondon #stpaul
“And it has more congenial small things – incidental civilities, you might call them – than any other city I know: cheery red mailboxes, drivers who actually stop for you at pedestrian crossings, lovely forgotten churches with wonderful names like St. Andrew by the Wardrobe and St. Giles Cripplegate, sudden pockets of quiet like Lincoln’s Inn and Red Lion Square, interesting statues of obscure Victorians in togas, pubs, black cabs, double-decker buses, helpful policemen, polite notices, people who will stop to help you when you fall down or drop your shopping, benches everywhere. What other great city would trouble to put blue plaques on houses to let you know what famous person once lived there, or warn you to look left or right before stepping off the curb? I’ll tell you. None.” – Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island #currentlyreading #LoveLetterToLondon #dreamhouse A photo posted by Dioni | Wandering Mee (@meexia) on
“And the British are so easy to please. It is the most extraordinary thing. They actually like their pleasures small. That is why so many of their treats – tea cakes, scones, crumpets, rock cakes, rich tea biscuits, fruit Shrewsbury- are so cautiously flavorful. They are the only people in the world who think of jam and currants as thrilling constituents of a pudding or cake.” – Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island #currentlyreading. I seem to have caught this piece of culture because afternoon tea and its treats are always the highlight of my day 😊. And how pretty is this nursery/cafe? ❤️ How did I live in London for over 4 years and never heard of it before? It’s not even that far from my home! #afternoontea #London @petershamnurseries
I may be biased, especially on the London bits, but I loved this book :)
Mee’s rating: 5/5