mam— Postcard from Blighty

As American writer Bill Bryson rediscovers his roots. he sends one last postcard from Britain. Craig McLean speaks to him about Notes F mm A Small Island.

‘Britain.‘ says the distant voice dovvn the phone line. 'is a hard topic tor a travel book . . . ' Especiall) it that book is primarin aitned at Britons. llovv to

make the commonplace seem attractive.

our neighbours seetn exotic. our smallness loom large'.’ llovv to make a series of thumbnail sketches and long journeys on dear old public transport readable?

Be Bill Bryson. that‘s hovv. With l989's The Lost (‘mi/menl the American writer compiled a masterpiece ol‘ humour. perception. socio-cultural observation and natural born tale-telling. Having left the mid- west black hole ot‘ his youth and pitched up in the UK in his Cill'l)’ twenties. the t‘ortysomething llt'vs‘otl was perfectly placed to go back home and root around small-tovvn America: he was both an insider and an outsider. able to relate and to dellate.

Now Bryson has done the same vvith is adoptive home. News From A Small Island is Bryson's valedictorv postcard. a compendium of images of a country he has since (albeit temporarily) forsaken for the States.

‘Britain is a hard topic lot" a travel book tor lots ol’ i'easonsj savs Br} son lrom his nevv home in New Hampshire. "l he tnain one being that it's small. .\nd it‘s ver_v unit‘ortn much more so than the British ol‘ten realise. ll l vvas in. sav. Bristol and I made some comment about .\laiks & Spencer. I could go to .-\berdcen and evactl} the sameobservations vvonltlapplv Bv the time I got to Scotland I lclt in a lot ol' vva_v's there vvasnt a lot ncvv to sav. l'tl said thctn alrcadv‘

'l'lic result is that Bi'v son has to dig deeper lot the ironies. inconsistencies and simple L'Vltletlct' til~ lllt‘ls rich tapeslrv that leapt otit otthe pages ol~ The lost ( 'mtlttri'ttt. 'l'his. Coupled with the sheet closeness ol the s'ttliiect. means that inev itabl} .\‘u/c'v from t.‘ .\‘mu/l lv/mn/ is rarclv as enthralling as its American counterpart

Still. Brv son's delt vv it continues to sparkle. vv hile his outsider/insider status here. too. enables him to otter tip a simple and lucid comtnentarv on the state ol' the nation liom the ruination

ol' the Health Service and the

debasement ol~ l’rinccs Street's architectural heritage to the hidden delights ot the London A

'lt‘s’ a vvonderlul position to be in. vvhen _vou‘re a l'oreignei living in a countrv vvlien things are going vvcll. voii cart step l'orvvaid and join the celebrations. When the} do something

stupid or cra/v or incompetent vou can

step back. and sa_v “Nothing to do vvith .iic”.’

.\‘oIev I'lrom xl Small Islmnl l.\' [Milt/ts/Iei/

' by [)(ttt/t/m/tt) (1/ £75.99

Bill Bryson: not much to say about Scotland


llOC {ng it tears

"Janet Inglis’swriling is wonderfully, brutally and I perceptiver honest’

Maureen Owen, DAILY MAIL

‘A harrowing story... I I believed it was all happening, and very

much wished i: itsgwasn’l’ /, '

. VIC'I‘ nous



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powerful »

you can’t tea r eyes fromtlie page.

'Out now in Corgi'fraperback conci