Book Review: Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Notes from a Small Island by Bill BrysonThis is a book I read for my real-life book group. Several of us have a special connection with England and we were curious about this book, in which the author travels around Britain and remarks upon remarkable things he comes across.

Notes from a Small Island: What it is about

The publisher says: “After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the States for a few years, to let his kids experience life in another country, to give his wife the chance to shop until 10 p.m. seven nights a week, and, most of all, because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, and it was thus clear to him that his people needed him.

But before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. His aim was to take stock of the nation’s public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy, place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey and Shellow Bowells, people who said ‘Mustn’t grumble’, and Gardeners’ Question Time.”

Notes from a Small Island: What I thought

This was a very enjoyable travel story. I lived in England for many years and recognised so many of the situations and habits. For people not familiar with Britain, some things will not ring a bell. But the gist of the story will be clear anyway.

There were a lot of funny moments in this book of the laugh-out-loud quality. Especially Bryson’s visit of a Glaswegian pub was funny. He didn’t understand the accent of the men there at all however hard he tried.

This book gives a really nice insight in Britain with all its quirks and its funny and friendly people. A fun to read, and to chuckle over.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (very good)

Number of pages: 400 (Dutch edition)

First published: 1995

I got this: from the library

Genre: non-fiction, travel

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

16 Responses to Book Review: Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

  1. Book Blather says:

    Bill Bryson is a Glaswegian pub, now there’s an image!🙂 Love the mention of Gardner’s Question Time in the synopsis – he really did live here, lol. I shall have to try this one, it sounds like a fun, light-hearted read. Thanks for the recommendation! Did the rest of your group enjoy it as well?

  2. I literally fell off the couch laughing while reading his “I’m a stranger here myself” about his return back to the States.

  3. Sounds like a great book! I’ve never been in Britain, but I’m certainly going there next year. My boyfriend and I are thinking about moving there when we’re going to live together.🙂

  4. bibliosue says:

    I’m so glad you liked this. Make sure to check out his book about travelling through Europe that I mentioned in a previous comment — it will probably make you laugh out loud too!

  5. BookerTalk says:

    Is this the one in which he describes the routine of pigeons at a railway station. All they does peck at dead ends of cigarettes and then evacuate the contents on the heads of unsuspecting passengers. Hilarious.

  6. Kelly says:

    Good review! I read this one a few years ago (I think when William and Kate were getting married, if I remember correctly) and I remember liking it but not looooving it. I think, as you said, because I don’t have a connection with any of the places mentioned (never been to England, though I hope to go one day), I felt a bit distanced from the story at times. It was funny, but certain parts seemed to drag and/or get repetitive for me after a while. I suppose that’s the case with travel memoirs that get very specific, especially if you aren’t familiar with the area yourself.

  7. Isi says:

    A kind of humorous travel guide, sounds great!!
    I’ve seen the book on a few blogs and it caught my attention. Hope it is translated into Spanish, because I think that some of the things would need further explanation for people from other countries😉
    I’m glad you enjoyed it!!

  8. Laurie C says:

    I’ve often thought about reading this one and almost put it on a book group list when I was running one, but we read A Walk in the Woods instead. I think I would like to listen to Notes from a Small Island on audio, but I’ve got such a backlog right now!

  9. Pingback: Review: Bill Bryson At Home | Charlotte Unsworth

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