The Road to Little Dribbling
All the books I've read in 2019
7. The Road to Little Dribbling, more notes from a small island by Bill Bryson
Did I finish it or abandon it? I FINISHED IT
Would I recommend it? NO
I have a soft spot for Bill Bryson. I've done a lot of travelling in my time and really enjoy travel writing. Bill Bryson goes further than most in that he not only talks about places, but the people and all the quirks and contradictions that go with them. He has a knack for describing the culture of a place in a way that is both charming an hilarious. Down Under, his book about Australia, is one of my all-time favourite reads.
The Road to Little Dribbling is part memoir, part travel book. Bill takes us from Bognor Regis on the south coast of England to Cape Wrath on the north coast of Scotland. Parts of this book are fascinating and informative. For example, I learned how Mount Everest got its name, how Alice in Wonderland was based on a real person and how the furthest you can travel on the mainland is not in fact, from John O'Groats to Land's End.
But this book has many problems. The biggest one is that Bryson loves looking round old museums. In this book, he does this a lot. An awful lot. And it doesn't make for interesting reading.
Another issue is that he spends far too long in the south of England, three quarters of the book in fact. He skims past Wales, and there's only one, short chapter about Yorkshire. Scotland gets even shorter shrift, its only mention being when Bryson speaks of Cape Wrath, the end of his journey. As a Northerner, this sort of thing is so annoying and so typical of so much in the media. But this isn't why I'm not recommending this book. It's that it spent too long talking about places that were just not very interesting. I found large parts of it a real slog.
I must note that this book was written in 2014-15, before the people of Britain voted to leave the EU. Thus, the image of Britain that Bryson paints in this book is very different to the one that has revealed itself during and since the referendum.