The Road to Little Dribbling is Bill Bryson’s first travel book for fifteen years – a brand new journey around Britain. His last three major works were largely social histories – One Summer: America 1927, At Home: A Short History of Private Life and A Short History of Nearly Everything.
If you’re a Bill Bryson addict, The Road to Little Dribbling is a must read. If you’re looking to read you first Bill Bryson, I’d probably go with something different, either The Lost Continent, Notes from a Small Island or Down Under (his Australian book).
Twenty years ago, Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the island that had become his adopted home.The hilarious book that resulted, Notes From a Small Island, became the best selling travel book in history, and was voted in a BBC poll the book that best represents Britain. To mark the twentieth anniversary of Notes from a Small Island, Bryson makes a brand-new journey round Britain to see what has changed. Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis on the south coast of England to Cape Wrath in far north Scotland through places that many people never get to at all. Bryson sets out to rediscover the beautiful, eccentric and unique country that he thought he knew but doesn’t altogether recognise any more. Even in the space of 20 years things have changed enormously (nearly always for the worst).
It’s a bit similar to The Lost Continent where as an adult he retraces many of the journeys his parents took him on as a child in small town America.
Bryson has an amazing instinct for finding the funniest and quirkiest. With his unerring eye for the idiotic, the endearing, the ridiculous and the scandalous, Bryson gives the reader an acute and perceptive insight into all that is the best and worst about Britain.
While he still describes the countryside with absolute rapture, he devotes a great deal of time to complaining about the incompetence of service workers, the decline or disappearance of the “traditional”, whether it be manners, food or grand institutions, and the increase in traffic, prices and compliance.
Sometimes he sounds like a grumpy old man, but to be fair he is self-aware and very self-critical.
Whilst Bryson’s early works frequently left you in stitches from laughter and were quite unsafe to read on public transport because you would burst into fits of uncontrollable snorting and guffawing, The Road to Little Dribbling tends to result in chortling, wry smiles and nods of agreement, maybe that’s because I am growing old with Bill Bryson.
Still, a wonderful read!