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Category Archives: Notes from a Small Island

Notes from a Small Island Review

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Notes from a Small Island

Published: 1995
Pages: ~324
Completed: Yes
Enjoyed: Yes

Seriousness: Seldom
Genre: Travelogue
Difficulty: Fairly easy, though with the occasional use of long-running sentences or unusual words (some of which – the “Britishisms” – are defined in a glossary at the back of the book).
Rating: M – occasional swearing and/or sexual references

Recommend: Yes

Up next … Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, which Rose Red, despite commenting about various plot developments during reading it, refuses to spoil the ending on the grounds that there would then be no point in me reading it. But somehow I doubt that [insert favourite movie spoiler here].

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2010 in Notes from a Small Island, Review

 

Simple pleasures

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In an interesting passage in Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson remarks that one of the things he likes about the British (and that distinguishes them from Americans) is their ability to be happy with little things; a reminiscence inspired by the sight of a couple sitting outside their beach-front holiday home in the middle of an English winter, in a howling gale, wrapped in blankets, and the observation that they were perfectly content because when they wanted to “they could retire to the hut and be fractionally less cold. They could make a cup of tea and, if they were feeling particularly rakish, have a chocolate digestive biscuit.”

It’s something I’m trying to emulate, in the general sense of appreciating what I have and not being discontent because I don’t have, for example, a Mercedes, but in light of the festive season I’ve seen another aspect to it. Families spend a lot of time and effort thinking about what they’re going to get for Uncle John et al., trying to find out what various people actually want (depending on the person – some people are easy to choose a gift for, and then there’s me), and worrying about how they’re going to pay for it all. Then, of course, on the day you have all the Oscar-worthy acting as you endeavour to convince Aunt Gertrude that it’s just what you’ve always wanted while all the time trying to find out what on earth it is.

The interesting thing about Christmas day, is that I’ve seen equally large family gatherings (whether for a birthday or other occasion or just because the sun is shining and everyone’s in town) that involve much the same things, yet are far less stressful. It’s good to remember to that it doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as you’re having fun, and to stop and remember that it’s really about an amazing gift given to all of us, many years ago, in a little town in the West Bank.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2010 in General, Notes from a Small Island

 

Notes from a small reader

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Notes from a Small Island marks an interesting change of pace. For one thing, it’s the first (maybe the only? I’ll have to check) non-fiction book on my list. It’s light-hearted, fun, silly, witty, and rather reminds me of my uncle’s travelogues.

It does seem to be a recurring theme with this list of works of literary merit that they’re often tiring to read. I can think of several reasons why that might be, but I have no definite conclusions. So, without further ado, my surmisations:

  1. Many of them were written a long time ago, and the antiquated language is harder to follow.
  2. Great works affect you on an emotional level, which is tiring (as compared to “popcorn” entertainments).
  3. They ask more of you in terms of story complications – I remember reading an article sometime in the last year or so that suggested great literary works expect you to cope with more complex knowledge of the “John believes that Mary thinks that Edward knows that …” variety.
  4. They’re less about plot and more about character development.
  5. All of the above.

In other news, someone has noticed me, and is following my example. Which is pretty neat (“I’m not the only one crazy enough to do this!”). I just hope I’m a good example.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2010 in Notes from a Small Island