The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain
The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson is a really funny book. It is mostly a travelogue, but it is also a rant about progress that really takes us backwards, people’s foolishness in general, and a lack of understanding about the importance of historic preservation.
Some decades ago, as a young man, Bill Bryson toured England and wrote about it in Notes from a Small Island. Now that he’s older, crotchetier and a grandfather, he visits some of the same places with different eyes. Some have improved, some have withered, and some just make him mad.
The book, which has no real plot, is more like travelling across England with a tour guide who doesn’t care if he gets fired for saying what he thinks. He’s not all negative: he notes the breathtaking beauty of the countryside and the simple pleasure of a well-written plaque in a museum. When he likes something, he’ll tell you he likes it as quick as he’ll tell you what he doesn’t like. He’s fascinated by details and, as a result, shows you an England you’ll never see on mainstream tours.
What stops it from being nothing more than a meandering story by an uncle you hate to sit next to at holidays is his sense of humor. Bryson will make you put the book down because you are laughing so hard. Like most Americans who have never been to England, my picture of the place comes from Downton Abbey, Bridget Jones, Stonehenge, and Dr. Who. Having read this book, I see a depth and breadth you wouldn’t think possible in such a geographically small place. Now I want to go. Badly. And especially if I can convince Bill Bryson to be my tour guide.
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