My first thought is that it is not a small island…the island he refers to is Britain which is actually the biggest island in Europe and ninth largest in the world. Where is the geographical integrity here?
Bill Bryson has justification in pointing out the Thames is not really all that significant in size in global terms when 107 rivers in North America are longer. He also points out Windermere with all its boats and Lakeland poets is titchy compared to Lake Superior. But no US island is bigger than Great Britain, which incidentally is well over twice the size of Lake “Superior” (82,100 km2).
Largest islands in the World
- Greenland – (840,004 sq. miles) (2,175,600 sq. km)
- New Guinea – (303,381 sq. miles) (785,753 sq. km)
- Borneo – (288,869 sq. miles) (748,168 sq. km)
- Madagascar – (226,917 sq. miles) (587,713 sq. km)
- Baffin – (194,574 sq. miles) (503,944 sq. km)
- Sumatra – (171,069 sq. miles) (443,066 sq. km)
- Honshu – (88,982 sq. miles) (225,800 sq. km)
- Victoria – (85,154 sq. miles) (220,548 sq. km)
- Great Britain – (80,823 sq. miles) (209,331 sq. km)
- Ellesmere – (71,029 sq. miles) (183,965 sq. km)
The book failed to make me “laugh out loud”, as it boasts on the cover, but how many of us do laugh out loud from our reading material? It did make me smile occasionally with its wry observations.
Bill Bryson, who hails from Iowa, makes a trip around Britain in 1995 and the book is the result of his observations on this trip. The route is a little random, visiting some places on a whim like Retford and leaving others out like East Anglia, Cornwall and South Wales. He begins at Dover like all immigrants who come through the tunnel and ends in Settle, where he chose to …er…settle for a while.
The book was a massive best seller, selling over two million copies. It is interesting seeing Britain through an American’s eyes. For a self confessed Anglophile, he does like to whine, notably about the destruction of Britain’s architectural heritage and the erection of lacklustre malls with the same stores in each town. This whining can get rather repetitive.
The book has given me a desire to tour Britain again, I have been to most of the places Bryson visited but have yet to explore Durham, which impressed him or Llandudno, which didn’t impress.
A lot of the book is about Bryson himself, he likes his beer and home comforts. If he hasn’t eaten well or got soaked, he might see a place badly. Overnight sometimes his views change from unfavourable to favourable (or the reverse).
Many things Bryson encounters in Britain defy logic.
“I asked the man in the ticket window for a single to Barnstaple. He told me a single was £8.80 but he could do me a return for £4.40.”
My rating a generous 4 out of 5 (it’s a keeper despite the misleading title and he did manage to find Wigan pier, which is more than George Orwell was able to do).