My hubby has a great sense of humour. He’s observant and quick-witted. But when he’s in a bad mood his comments can sometimes come across as nasty instead of funny. Which is why I can’t help thinking Bill Bryson wasn’t in the lightest of spirits when he wrote The Road to Little Dribbling.
The book is subtitled A Grumpy Man Travels around Britain Again because his Publisher Wants Him to Write another Book. Actually, I made that up (it’s More Notes from a Small Island) but you get the idea.
The loose premise is to travel between the two points in Britain that are furthest apart in a straight line, which turn out to be Bognor Regis in South East England and Cape Wrath in the Scottish Highlands. Bryson doesn’t travel along the “Bryson Line” but criss-crosses the mainland, sometimes revisiting places he first wrote about in Notes from a Small Island (Dover, London, Oxford, Cambridge, Liverpool, Durham) but also taking in plenty of new ones (Windsor Great Park, New Forest, Birmingham).
I’ve read all of Bryon’s travel books and all bar one of his non-travel books so you could say I’m something of a fan. His trademark style, mixing facts, observations, insights and humour is reassuringly comfortable, like putting on a pair of slippers. However there’s a fine line between humorous banter and humourless rant; unfortunately too often in The Road to Little Dribbling Bryson crosses it. For example, in Torquay, needing a watch battery and finding the shop-keepers less than helpful: “I quite like Torquay and might one day come back, but I can tell you this now: where watch batteries are concerned, they can go fuck themselves.” Less slippers, more hobnailed boots.
If you’ve not read any of Bryson’s travel writing before (and why not?) put down The Road to Little Dribbling and reach for Notes from a Small Island instead, or try A Walk in the Woods, about the Appalachian Trail.
Rating: * Not for me
You might also like Bryson’s non-travel book At Home – see my review on this blog.