I’ve always rather liked Bill Bryson. Part of my GCSE English exam was to examine an extract from one of his books and I was quite taken with his friendly and open style of writing. It always felt like you were sitting in the pub with him and he was telling you a jolly story while winking at the naughty bits.
The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island is a sequel to one of his most famous books, written in 1995. In this book Bryson revisits some of the parts of Britain he went to for his previous book and visits a few new places along his newly defined “Bryson Line”, which runs between the most northern and southern points of the United Kingdom (which are not in fact Lands End and John O’Groats).
This is a book of multiple Brysons. There’s Bryson the environmentalist, happily striding through some of England’s most beautiful green areas and railing against the encroaching industrial developments. There’s Bryson the history lover, devoting pages upon pages to singing the praises of his favourite museums, bemoaning the inadequacies of others and giving us readers loving biographies of lesser known Brits. Then there’s Bryson the grandfather, fondly remembering past decades and full of anecdotes of his family however slightly more agist, racist and sexist/transphobic that I am really comfortable with. If it was a family dinner you’d be pretending you’d run out of beer and looking at your watch.
The book is very England-centric. Bryson spends a chapter or so in Wales and a very short period of time in Scotland, most of which seems to be while asleep. I’m not debating that there is a wealth of things within England to see and talk about, however it does really feel like everywhere else is being neglected.
Worth the read? If you are already a fan of Bill Bryson then sure, you’ll enjoy this book too. If you’re new to his books I’d start with one of his older travel books or perhaps “A Short History of Nearly Everything”, which is a bestselling popular science book.
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