Neither Here nor There

Posted on June 23, 2010

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– about Europe

 

I have a confession to make; I felt like slapping Bill Bryson at least half way through his Neither Here nor There.  So if this is the case, one may ask, why did you end up reading it almost at one go? The answer, at least from my point of view, is simple. I was hungry for a trip into a continent I was starting to love more and more, and Bryson was my proxy traveller.

Unlike fiction, travel books have a tendency to ‘expire’, in that as readers, we sift through them not only for the pleasure of reading but also in the hope of coming across useful facts for the time when we can finally undergo a similar journey. It is difficult to approach Bryson’s book from this perspective considering that it is already almost 2 decades old, and since a head-spinning amount of things have changed across Europe since then. Added to this, in this particular book (though not so in some of his others), Bryson displays the analytic capability of a walrus as he hops into and out of a location in what seems like the blink of an eye and then dispenses free, depthless comments and a ridiculous amount of generalisations. His liking or hating a place often seems to depend merely on the availability, price and temperature of its beer. He stumbles into countries without arranged accommodation and then wines about paying for overpriced and unattractive hotel rooms, complains about local cuisine but does not even attempt to translate menus and simply picks dishes blindly, and of course, makes it a point to try not to speak to anyone, lest his book is made more interesting by adding the voices of someone other than…well…him.

If Neither here Nor there has taught me anything, it’s definitely how not to travel. It also made me (though I had to make a big effort to drown that increasingly annoying Bryson voice and simply focus on the more factual descriptions of time and place) want to explore a continent which has always been at my doorstep but which, for numerous reasons, I had previously largely ignored.

I’d still recommend reading this book, because, as I told you, I couldn’t put it down, though for god’s sakes, don’t take the author too seriously. He’s drunk most of the time anyway.

Find Neither Here Nor There and many more recommendations in my book shop.

 

-Travel Book Reviews by Denise Pulis @ www.travelwithdenden.wordpress.com

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