Bill Bryson – Neither Here Nor There
34. Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson (1992)
Read By: William Roberts
Length: 9h 05min (245 pages)
Started: 20 April 2014
Finished: 25 April 2014
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? It had been a while since I’d read any Bill Bryson.
I’d bet vacation
in Europe would make me less
grumpy, not more so.
Summary: Bill Bryson travelled around Europe as a young man. In the early 1990s, he decided to retrace his steps. He starts out in Norway, hoping to see the Northern Lights. He then makes his way through the rest of Scandinavia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Turkey, reminiscing about his previous trip, and reporting along the way about the hassles of transportation, the odd accommodations, the highlights and lowlights of the various cultural attractions, and the attitudes of the locals he encounters.
Review: Not his best. From reading his other travel writing (Notes from a Small Island and In a Sunburned Country, and to some extent A Walk in the Woods), it’s pretty clear that Bryson is, at best, a grumpy traveler. I’ve occasionally wondered why, if seemingly everything about travel irks him so badly, he continues to do it. I suspect that he’s not really as grumpy as he puts on, but instead is dealing with the same minor inconveniences as any traveller, just amping up the curmudgeonliness for comic effect.
But the thing was, in this case, the grumpiness outweighed the humor, although there were some parts that were relatively amusing. But Bryson didn’t seem to enjoy much of anything about Europe except Italy, and also ogling the asses of every young European woman he saw. (Seriously, he comments on women’s bodies a lot, enough that I not only noticed but was also grossed out by it.) The biggest problem was that not only did Bryson not make me want to visit these places, it’s that he didn’t give me a particularly good feel for most of them, either. He doesn’t really talk to the locals (other than station agents and hotel clerks and the like), and he doesn’t include much of the type of history or tangents that mark some of his other travel books. So for all that he tries to point out how much cultural diversity Europe contains, all of his destinations tended to blur together, and it makes it hard to remember if this rude waiter or that crowded museum or the really terrible traffic was in Copenhagen or Vienna or where. And given how dated this book is at this point, it’s hard to say how much of the impression that he does give is still accurate at this point. (So maybe this book did make me want to go to Europe after all, if for nothing else but to compare!) 3 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: It’s not terrible, but it’s out of date, and it’s not Bryson at his best at any rate. I think it might actually be better for those with some experience traveling in Europe already, who can impose their own experiences over Bryson’s grumbling.
Other Reviews: Dead White Guys, Etc.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: In winter Hammerfest is a thirty-hour ride by bus from Oslo, though why anyone would want to go there in winter is a question worth considering.
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