2.5 stars for this travel book that is by turns fascinating and irritating.
This is the first Bill Bryson book I have read and while I loved parts of it – the opening page had me laughing! – there were other passages, opinions and whinges that I disliked. The writer seems wonderfully full of curiosity about places, museums and mostly-forgotten inventors/eccentrics etc and he has a real gift in communicating enthusiasm alongside facts. I have been entertained, informed and induced to want to visit many towns and ‘sights’ in reading this travelogue. His writing about Avebury, Stonehenge and the brochs near Glenelg was particularly interesting to me.
Other aspects of this book were less appealing. Personally, I was mildly disappointed that there is so little on Scotland (the writer ends up just sleeping on a train through most of the country). More importantly, I was put off by the way Bill Bryson writes about people. Perhaps it is only a conceit, part of the grumpy old man persona that he employs in this book (or perhaps he always writes like this?) but I did not like how rude he was about people, so many strangers are dismissed as oiks, f*ckwits and so on, or seen as obstructive jobsworths when they do not instantly do what he wants. The writer’s self-deprecating humour stops him from being a complete Jeremy Clarkson, nevertheless I don’t think I’ll risk trying another Bill Bryson book.
The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island was published in 2015.