Thursday, November 10, 2016

Review of "Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe" by Bill Bryson

In this book travel writer Bill Bryson wrote about a whirlwind trip through Europe that seemed designed solely to give him something to write about rather than a journey he actually wanted to take. I didn't take notes so Bryson's stops in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Lichtenstein, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Austria, Italy, etc. blended together into a continuous blur of traveling, finding hotels, walking around, looking at things, eating, drinking, and so on. I could hardly distinguish one city from another.

Bryson's observations are meant to be humorous (and sometimes are) but they're almost always snide and critical. Again and again Bryson complains that the cities he visited were dirty and filled with litter; had menus he couldn't read; served bad food that cost too much; harbored surly, unhelpful or purposely obstructive service workers (clerks, waiters, hotel staff); sported poor transportation with inconvenient schedules; wouldn't accept whatever kind of money he happened to have; allowed panhandlers in the streets;  sold useless merchandise; and on and on and on. 
Bryson has a (probably well-deserved) animus toward Germany for the Holocaust and Austria for electing a former Nazi to be president - but his extreme hostility is a jarring note in what's supposed to be an entertaining romp. The book is also heavy with sexual innuendos, has numerous comments about prostitutes, describes lots of excessive drinking, and contains 'dirty' language that's off-putting in the context of a light-hearted travel story (and I'm no prude). 

On the positive side Bryson's descriptions of some of the sights he sees are interesting: the northern lights, museums, parks, historic sites, artworks, and so on. Still, I had to force myself to finish and was glad when he finally went home. Not one of Bryson's best efforts. 

Rating: 2 stars


  1. I know I'm in the minority, but I'm not a huge fan of Bryson's work. I've read a number of his books and he often writes really funny material. But I always see him as a loner, sitting in a dark bar or restaurant, making snide comments about people he doesn't really engage with. I think he's a little too full of himself. That's my read, anyway. Could be wrong.

    1. I like some of Bryson's books but I agree that he's sometimes very snarky and critical. As you say ..."too full of himeself" :)