Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Road to Little Dribbling

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson's big breakout book was Notes from a Small Island, a funny book about living and traveling in the UK.  That was 20 years ago, so he thought he would do another one and see how things have changed.  For some reason, he drew a line from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath (the farthest you can go in a straight line while on land), and then of course didn't stick with that line at all, except insofar as he started in Bognor and moved kind of north and eventually got to Cape Wrath--although really, he spent almost no time in Scotland at all, which was pretty disappointing.

Much of the book is fun and enjoyable and lyrical about the beauties of the British countryside and the wonderfulness that is London.  I learned some good stuff for our upcoming trip, like that you can just walk into the West Kennet Long Barrow (this is completely stunning to me, but it turned out that my mom already knew) and that Stonehenge has recently been redone so that there's not so much road right there.  Also he got so excited about the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge that we are definitely going there (I'd already planned to go to Cambridge and wondered if we should go there).  About 65-70% of the book is this nice stuff.

But, then there's the other part.  Really, he complains kind of a lot.  In fact he gets downright tetchy in spots, and while tetchiness is part of life, I'm not sure that all of it had to be included.  And he uses a really surprising amount of profanity, considering that it's a humorous travel book for a general audience.  Those were noticeable problems that made the book less enjoyable than it could have been.

My final objection is more puzzling than anything else.  Bryson spends quite a lot of the book drinking in pubs, which is certainly ordinary enough, but he frequently has one (or three) too many and talks about heading tipsily off to bed.  Then he casually mentions that he suffers from gout.  Well, if you have gout, and you're always talking about how much you love taking long walks, why on earth would you spend nearly every evening sloshing down too much beer??  Honestly, there is a lot of beer drinking and it gets kind of old.

I liked it for the most part, and I picked up some good tips.  But I did think it could have been better written and less grumpy.  You're not that old, Bill, shape up some already.  (Plus your criticisms of H. V. Morton sound like sour grapes.)

4 comments:

heather said...

I'm glad that you got some useful tips from this one

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I feel this way about all the Bill Bryson books I've read. Whenever I read one of his books, I feel like, sir, if you are unenjoying yourself so much, why do you continue to do this as a job? It makes his books not fun to read.

Joy said...

So cool that you're planning a trip to England! Have you read Susan Allen Toth? The books are getting dated, now, but they're much more pleasant to read than Bryson and also give a lot of material for planning a trip.

Thanks for joining British Isles Friday!

Jean said...

Hi Joy, I think I have read one of Toth's books! I think that "Love Affair" book sounds familiar. I will see if the library has any, thanks for the tip!