Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

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Notes from a Small Island
Author: Bill Bryson
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0-552-99600-9
Publishers: Originally published in Great Britain by Doubleday, a division of Transworld Publishers Ltd.

On the back cover of the copy of this book I was given to read, this was stated:

“After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back tot the States for a while, 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 …”

I just knew I had to read this book … and I so enjoyed it.

The style of writing is interesting: At a first glance, you think that the author is really opening up and telling you his inner thoughts about a particular person or thing. Then he makes a joke about the subject which is really couched in terms so serious that you’re left wondering what are his real thoughts on the subject. And all throughout you’re laughing. A perfect example is his notes on his visit to Windsor Park:-

‘ … Once, on Boxing Day when I was ambling along in a paternal fashion beside an offspring on a shiny new tricycle, I became aware with a kind of sixth sense that we were holding up the progress of a car and turned to find that it was being driven by Princess Diana. As I hastened myself and my child out of the way, she gave me a smile that melted my heart, and since that time I have never said a word against the dear sweet girl, however pressed by those who think that she is a bit off her head because she spends ยฃ28,000 a year on leotards and makes occasional crank phone calls to hunky military men. (And who among us hasn’t? is my unanswerable reply)”

The author, in this book, has managed to combine four aspects of telling a great story into one book:

  • An extensive knowledge in the history of the place, the geography of the land and the architecture of the buildings.
  • As for its people, the ability to observe people around you is a must for any author. However, the ability to then use words to correctly ‘paint’ what you have observed is a skill and art and in this, Bill Bryson has is a master.
  • He has been able to give the reader an insight into his inner thoughts, feelings, fears, frustrations and thereby make it a mini-autobiography.
  • His commentary about politics, economics and life in general is to be applauded.
    In all, he has written with such humour that his book is really, pure entertainment.

Really, this has been one of the best books I have read in a long, long time.

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