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Summary

After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the States for a while but before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain. His aim was to take stock of the nation's public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy, place names like Farleigh Wallop and Shellow Bowells, people who said 'Mustn't grumble', and Gardeners' Question Time.

©2004 Bill Bryson (P)2004 Random House Audiobooks

What listeners say about Notes from a Small Island

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Edited version

This is a very short version of the great book. Still enjoyable but the 10 hour version is the whole book. Not worth a whole credit.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Love The Narration

I have listen to Bill Bryson books narrated by BIll himself, and by William Roberts (The Lost Continent). Having originally listened to the Roberts narration, I thought I liked it, however, I then moved on to this book narrated by Bill himself. The difference is amazing. Roberts is a more polished audiobook reader, but he also makes the book sound somehow detached from what is going on. Bill, although more gentle in tone, is simply delightful when he comes across a particularly fond memory, and it feels as though you can hear him smile as he reads it back to himself, forgetting he is even being recorded.



This quirk in the reading is so endearing that I now cannot go back and listen to William Roberts who obviously cannot relate to the material in the same way. These books are after all a personal tale of adventure and experiences.



I do not think there is anything wrong with the Roberts narration, but I can only recommend you listen to all the books narrated by him BEFORE listening to one narrated by Bill Bryson himself. Only you have heard the difference, you cannot go back. I only wish Bill had narrated all of his books on Audible.



This book itself is great, and I chuckle to myself in public often at the observations about British life going on around me. Recommended.

4 people found this helpful

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Love this book!

Having read the book a number of times it was a delight to listen to Bill Bryson deliver this in his calm, gentle style. One question - why has Mrs Smegma been changed to Mrs Gubbins?!

1 person found this helpful

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  • DR
  • 17-09-16

Wonderful!

Really fantastic, this is a must listen! ... only small gripe is the bizarre music which appeared a 2 or 3 times and almost obscured the speech. Fortunately it only lasts a minute or so each time so doesn't cause a problem overall, but was an odd production choice which I can't fathom!

Don't let that put you off though, I'm really writing it for the production company to see ... I still recommend without hesitation!

1 person found this helpful

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Love this book

This is such a good book which I read years ago. It's funny, quirky and gently mocks the British way of doing things.
I like Bill Brysons narration of his own books very much.

The book was great apart from very odd music suddenly drowning out much of the narration when Bill Bryson reached John O Groats. It was most peculiar and unnecessary....I didn't know where the music was coming from initially and then it swelled louder and louder until I wondered whether to turn off the book! Luckily it only lasted a few minutes but I do wonder what it was for and how it was supposed to enhance the recording.
Apart from that I thought it a good recording and would recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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Enjoyable but not his best

Enjoyable as I generally love Bill Bryson but the narration lacked dynamics and as the book is very 'wordy' it was easy to get distracted

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A gem

A dry, humourous account of Bryson's wanderings around the British Isles that is a joy to share. His love of Britain and the British shines through his warts and all description of his travels. As an American married to a Brit and having made Britain my home his story resonates to the core and his sharp observations make us both laugh out loud. To top it off my husband is from Yorkshire...needless to say he approves. Bryson's narration is soothing and understated....felt like we were all sat round in the pub with a pint being regaled by his story. Highly enjoyable.

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Music spoiler

In chapter 5 the music drowning out the piece on John o Groats I find irritating in the extreme. Very odd!!

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A lovely view of Britishness

I got another of Bill Bryson's audiobooks a few months back, "A short history of nearly everything" and liked the style very much. Funny, engaging, informative and a pleasure to listen to. So I picked another book next, this one, and what a joy. He has picked out the essence of Britain and his experiences during his travels and wonderful. You would need to be of a certain age to fully appreciate all the descriptions and nuances, and have holidayed in Britain to get all the references But I loved it and another one of his books (possibly the follow up) will be next on my playlist And to finish off, the narrator does a wonderful job of bringing it to life Very much recommended

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My favourite book. Simple.

This is my go to book if I'm feeling depressed or bored, so funny, so heartfelt, never gets old.

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  • Andre
  • 15-02-16

pleasantville

A languid, amiable account of BB's travels to the UK, which at times had me chortling, but I enjoyed most of his other books more.

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  • Rachel
  • 03-08-15

Bryson does it again!

Bryson turns one man's travels through England to a masterclass in intelligent commentary, exquisitely crafted story, and humorous tales. Would definitely recommend to all.

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  • udidit
  • 07-10-12

Disappointing !

I was a fan of Bill Bryson until this book, which I was really looking forward to listening to.
We all have bad days and he, at least, admits to having several whilst journeying through Britain. Unfortunately he comes over as being or trying to be funny and cynical at the same time and does not pull it off 99% of the time, making the listener yawn and hope that the weather and story will improve, but sadly for him at least, neither seem to and the reader/listener is left wishing the agony would stop! Its basically very boring.
I was so glad that he decided later in his life to return to his native country because having personally lived in both countries myself, I truly believe that the "chip" he carried around on his shoulder whilst trying to write this book would have lightened as soon as he was amongst his own again in Iowa and I mean this kindly having also lived in Iowa!
I really enjoyed other books that he has written and will try to lighten up regarding this one but to date have not changed my initial reaction.

1 person found this helpful