Review: Notes from a Big Country, Bill Bryson

Rating: 4 out of 5

There’s a certain charm to collected news columns—that they were, perhaps, written over a long period, and we can read all of it in one go. The author’s changing mindset, or at least the topics that concern them, are apparent, and they bring up again what was topical *then*. This look by Mr Bryson into 1990’s Northeastern United States is, therefore, a small time capsule.

It is amusing to think how some things have changed so much: the author’s problems with computers and their equipment seem trivial now while shopping continues in the same mould (or, at least, did so until relatively recently) as it was twenty five years ago. The line of topics where the author describes his difficulties with adjusting to life in the US after a long time away are also illuminating—many of the same issues are relevant today, e.g. paperwork.

The style is caustic with perhaps a touch too much harshness. Nevertheless, the author always criticises himself first, so the book reads rather well. Yet, the years have improved Mr Bryson’s style, and it is clear that this is earlier on in his career. That said, some of his even earlier books I have liked more than this one, so the opinion column format may have forced the author’s hand on style.

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