I like Bill Bryson and have enjoyed some of his other books, but Neither Here nor There, his account of traveling through Europe from Norway to Istanbul, is disappointing.
The book is full of clichés that you already knew about and didn’t need another book to confirm. Italians are attractive and loud, German is a strange language, Scandinavia is expensive, Switzerland is expensive, Liechtenstein is expensive, and so on.
What is worse is that nothing much happens. Mr Bryson writes in great detail about purchasing a plane/train/bus ticket from each stop to the next and then about the hotels he stays at. That takes up half of the book. The rest is for restaurants, complaining about prices and service, getting drunk, and some pages are left for a walk around the park.
It seems like Mr Bryson didn’t set out to explore a continent, to get to know people, to have adventures, but was rather ticking off cities from a to-visit list. Very rarely does he talk to locals or allow himself to be surprised by wandering off into the unknown, even if it was just a less touristy part of town. At one point, he even takes pride in not learning any of the local language, confirming another cliché, this time about Americans. Mr Bryson can write with humor, but I got the impression that this was a sad and lonely journey.
If you want to prepare for a trip to Europe, you can do a hundred times better with Geert Mak’s In Europe.
Aw. So sorry it was disappointing. I too am a Bill Bryson fan, but haven’t read this one. Hope the others I sent are more interesting/stimulating/inspiring.
Don’t worry, I am still very thankful for all the books you sent! Whenever I put something on my wishlist, there is a risk that it won’t live up to my expectations, of course.
I found Mr Bryson’s books about Australia and about the Appalachian Trail quite good.
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