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Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

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Valerie Morgan

This is not a book I would normally choose to read. However I found it very entertaining, even though the humour was a little tongue in cheek. Bill obviously would prefer life as it was, than it is! He describes areas, towns and cities (some of which I have not visited) in detail including the most interesting facts. Many of the everyday visitors would probably never encounter these and it is this that made me continue to read. I found some of them fascinating and he obviously has a knack for finding out such interesting information. I love the fact he is so keen on the correct use of the English language and grammar (eg p219). Pity about some of the 'F' words. Totally unnecessary to use that kind of language. Very funny in places but not to the extent that I wouldn't read it in public as suggested by the Times. On the whole an enjoyable, informative and entertaining book.

Christopher Gandy

This was not my usual reading material, Being more a Stephen King, James Patterson, Wilbur Smith follower, so was unsure what to expect from this book. I found it a most entertaining and light hearted read which had constant humour throughout. The writer’s ability to capture the history of Britain and the diversity of this Island and its occupants and mix it with his observations makes for some excellent reading. As he leads you on a merry road trip recounting stories of past visits and comparing the changes areas have been through over the intervening years, some for the better and some not so good, you get the urge to get your boots on and walk the same paths with book in hand to hunt out the interesting places the writer describes. You gain a great deal of history about the British Isles from this book but it is written in a way that learning them is so much fun, every page contains interesting facts about the places visited and people from the area but written with so many laugh out loud moments it keeps you wanting to learn and read more.

Elanor Winkworth

Put yourself in Bill's position, dear reader. You're in Sebergh, a place hoping to pay its way as a "book town". No doubt you would want to spend time browsing the bookshelves, talking to staff and customers, gaining some unexpected insight, treating yourself to a book, retiring to the cafe, ordering a pot of tea and a fruit scone (jam and cream), opening the book covers and... enjoy. Not Bill. He focuses on the cafe; of the available selection of books there the one that instantly catches his eye is a Katie Price autobiography. We can guess what's coming and Bill proceeds to "duff" up poor old Katie.They say no publicity is bad so I expect Katie will return the favour in the next instalment of her life story (" As I was sitting in Pre-op, awaiting some nip and tuck, my eye was inevitably drawn to a Bill Bryson lying on the coffee table. Its rubbish...") Back to Bill's journey. He visits lots of run down places up and down (mainly up) these isles but can't wait to leave them, having confirmed to us that they are indeed run down. There will be interesting people and places and projects but the author does not hang about, just reinforces the stereotype, ticks the box, job done. In one chapter Bill says he does not want to be dismissive of whole generations of journalistic endeavours but suggests we just have to look at the weekend paper content. Well, I did read segments of this book in one of the papers and so must, with regret, agree with him. Let's be honest. The whole British travelogue genre is very tired.It wasn't even original twenty years ago with Bill's first outing. J B Priestley was doing it back in the 1930s ("English Journey"). And Priestley had a social conscience about industrial decline ("it will not do..they are the skilled children of our industrial systems, artisans and men with trades in their fingers... they declare once again the miserable bankruptcy of that system..."). In fairness, Bill gave the genre a new twist as an American looking at the British way of life. And at least this book wasn't Bill's idea, he blames his publisher for that. Yet how much insight can anybody realistically glean from whistle stop tours? My gran used to say that if you don't have anything nice to say then you should keep quiet. The prologue, where we learn about Bill's British citizenship test, and examples of the questions asked, is thought provoking as to the distilled essence of Britishness. Now that would make a good subject for a book!

Francis Robertson

An amusing companion as I walked along. Bill Bryson had me smiling, laughing and agreeing, most of the way. A rant, I think it was about the motorways, (can't remember now!)., got a bit boring . But Bill soon managed to pick up his mood and mine. Having travelled abroad, this book has inspired me to think more about our home turf! Bill certainly has the knack of getting to the heart of our quirky Britishness! His style of writing makes for an easy read, so you look forward to joining him on his jaunt, a.s.a.p. With a cuppa, or for Bill and me a G&T! Am thinking of reading his other book, Notes from a Small Island, as not had the pleasure yet. Has he written anything else? My reading is very eclectic, so often get taken to new authors by chance. Thank you Viking!! Must get back to the book now, bye.

Jennifer Pearson

This book has been on the best-seller lists for weeks, and has received mixed reviews, especially by people who compare it with Notes from a Small Island, written 20 years ago. I came to it without having read his previous books, and within moments of starting the Prologue, I was laughing aloud. Bryson, in his travels around Britain, casts his affectionate and quirky eye on aspects of life which most of us take for granted – bus shelters, scruffy cafes, and the London Underground, for example. He digresses on the most unlikely subjects: George Everest, who never went near his eponymous mountain: Lord Leighton, who was ‘stirred to frisky life’ after years of celibacy and whose story may have been the model for Shaw’s Pygmalion: and Dr. Beeching, the railway wrecker, ‘a portly, prissy-looking man with … a striking lack of relevant experience’. Bryson is observant and well-informed, and he clearly loves Britain, but he also has the detachment of someone born in the rural USA. He can be harshly critical, and occasionally outrageous in his views, but he never fails to amuse, interest and entertain. This is perfect holiday reading.

Helen Poley

Thank you for inviting me to review Bill Bryson's new book this month. I had not read any of his books previously but had promised myself that I would read this one having read reviews of it. The prologue sets the scene in a quirky and humorous way and I was keen to read on. I liked the idea of the repeat visits and his comparisons between then and now give us a picture of how Britain has changed or not? I liked the way he describes the places he visits and this is no dry, detailed travel guide. In fact, left to Bill, you wouldn't visit some of them at all. I have thoroughly enjoyed the book which is well written and easy to read. Bill Bryson can be a grumpy old man as he puts it, but this added to things, although I didn't always appreciate his sarcasm. He obviously likes living here and as such is free to do what we all do and grumble! I shall now read "Notes from a Small Island".

Cliff Palmer

I have to confess I’m biased – I’ve read most of Bill Bryson’s books and enjoyed them immensely. And so it is with this one – even the prologue had me chortling away. There then follows descriptions of my ‘home patch’ that I thought I knew all about, but it appears to be not the case. He begins in a location that evokes many happy memories of childhood holidays, then moves on to where I spent 23 years of my working life. And he still came up with some surprises. Mr Bryson has always had the knack of digging up unusual little bits of information about a place and/or its inhabitants and, occasionally using language as colourful as his subjects, makes observations about the British way of life that maybe only a non-native notices (he is, however, no longer a ’foreigner’ as he explains in the prologue.) But he will always show you new places and tell you new things about familiar places....now who else does that sound like?