Sunday, December 29, 2013

Completed: Notes from a Small Island

Dear Jenny,

This is my second repeat author in our TBR journey (I read At Home in 2012) and it was pretty great -- Bill Bryson has a terrific voice and, for part of this read, I actually got to hear his voice, as I also listened to some of the aBook, which is narrated by Bryson himself.

I bought this book the first time I went to England, which was in 2001. I don't know why I haven't read it before now... guess that's just what happens to TBR books, right?

Bryson wrote this as he was preparing to leave Britain after living there for 20 years. I, myself, have often dreamed of moving to England (the distance from loved ones has held me back -- California was far, but England is really far!) so it was great to read/hear his reminiscences of his time there.

Also, Bill Bryson is hilarious.

Here is my favorite passage -- this made me laugh out loud when I heard it the first time and I just laughed again, re-reading it:
Because time was getting on, I decided to take a shortcut through the hilly woods, but I neglected to note that I was at the uppermost of a very tight band of contour lines. In consequence, I found myself a moment later descending a more or less perpendicular hill in an entirely involuntary fashion, bounding through the woods with great leaps and outflung arms in a manner oddly reminiscent of George Chakiris in West Side Story, except of course that this was Wales and George Chakiris didn't shit himself with terror, before eventually, after several bouncing somersaults and an epochal eighty-yard slide on my stomach, ending up on the very lip of a giddy precipice, with a goggle-eyed view of the glittery Wye a hundred feet below. I cast my gaze back along my suddenly motionless body to find that my left foot had fortuitously snagged on a sapling. Had the sapling not been there, I would not be here. [128]
Other than that, I don't have too much to say about this book. It was a quick read and listen, Bryson's voice (written and spoken) is great, and I really felt like I was with him as he reflected on his adopted land while he planned to return to his homeland. He has an amazing skill of writing fondly about a place while also mocking it soundly.

And despite that passage above... England is a good country for walkers. Just another damned enticement for me to move there.



  1. I really love Bill Bryson! He's written one of my all time favorite books, A Short History of the Universe, which made me realize that reading about science is a lot more interesting when you're also reading about the scientists involved in the work!

    I believe I also read a book of his about Australia. Hmm. I can't believe I haven't read more of him. Maybe I need to borrow one of those and put in on my shelf for the 2015 TBR pile. Heh.

  2. Ps. That is a funny anecdote. I laughed out loud, too. I like funny books!