I've read and enjoyed a few of Bill Bryson's travel adventures, and even recently watched the movie A Walk in the Woods (the book was much better). So when I had a chance to read an advanced copy of his latest travel adventures, I jumped at the chance.
Bill Bryson is originally an Iowa boy, born in Des Moines and ending up in England in his early 20's, falling in love, marrying, and settling in his new home. He's been back to the United States, even lived in New Hampshire for a number of years, but now he's settled back in England, a curmudgeon that at once makes you laugh and ponder how the world changes as we age--or is it the same, and we just see it differently in our mature years?
The Road to Little Dribbling is a sequel of sorts to his very popular book Notes from a Small Island, written 20 years ago. He decided, after a bit of prodding, that he needed to revisit some of the places he first visited as a relative newbie living in England. Now Bill is in his 60's, and that really does color his experiences as he wanders through England from top to bottom. Visiting Cornwall, Wales, Dover, and many other places both big and small, Bill reminisces over how England has changed and stayed the same in some places; even improved greatly from when he last visited. He rails against the increasing stupidity of people (don't we all, really?), their horrible grammar, and how England is in danger of losing what makes England such a wonderful place: the vast swaths of forests, parks, and stunning beauty that makes England like no other place in the world.
Bill is clearly a man in love with his adopted homeland (and he recently became a dual citizen as well). He is funny, biting, and sometimes just plain crabby and grumpy. He does make the point that England has so many incredible National Heritage Sites, archeological sites, cathedrals, and oodles of historical "stuff" that it is easy for people to grow complacent, and figure all will always be there. But, we are reminded that we are merely stewards, and we must take care of our treasures. I thoroughly enjoyed Bill's snarkiness, bits of forgotten historical tidbits, and mostly his passion and love for Britain, warts and all. We all sometimes need a reminder of why we love the places we call home, with all the quirkiness and quiet beauty that surrounds us that we often times forget to see.
You don't need to read Notes from a Small Island to enjoy the "sequel". I didn't and don't feel I missed anything important. Those who love Bill Bryson won't be disappointed, and those who don't know Bill Bryson should give his travel adventures a try.
Rating: 7/10 for an enjoyable tromp through England with a man who enjoys a pint, appreciates the quirks of his country, and has just the right touch of humor and history to make his books a treat to read.