Sep 25 2007
Dear Mr. Bryson,
When your books are on, they’re wonderful. “Made in America,” “The Mother Tongue,” and “Neither Here nor There” are among my favorites. They’re funny, informative and a delight to read. But while “Notes from a Small Island” starts off with a bang (love the scene when you put the underwear on your head to keep warm on your first night in Dover) it unfortunately fizzles out midway through the book and ends up limping along to the finish.
What kept me reading were your delightful stories of your first and subsequent encounters with the English and getting to know your way around how things are different there, how you met your wife and her family and discovered you couldn’t understand the appeal of their favorite TV shows, your work mates, the upheaval in journalism during the 80s, wandering around Windsor with your daughter — I continued to enjoy things like this. It’s only when you start whining on about architecture that I began to get bored. Enough already. You’ve stated how you feel about how the 60′s and 70s ruined lots of historic buildings – even you agree that after a while you’re ranting and probably boring your readers. Stick to your memories of friends and past jobs and your life in England or about the people you meet on the way. Please stop with the seemingly endless complaints that there’s nothing to see in so many towns and cities if all you’re going to do is wander around after dark and go to Indian or Chinese restaurants.
I guess the premise of the book, that you were going to spend seven weeks wandering around the UK seeing the sites before moving to the US with your family, sounded better in the planning stages. And maybe if this book had been written before all the homogenized box stores and chain outlets took over the towns in the UK as they’ve done here, it would have shown a nuanced country but after a while, it all started to sound the same and I got as bored as you seemed to. C+