Paul Hamilton's Reviews > Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson
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Jul 05, 09

bookshelves: non-fiction, travel
Read in July, 2009

Bryson's tale of following his own youthful footsteps, recreating a trip across Europe he took as a teenager, is the sort of thing a travel essay should be. It is by turns honest, frightening, hilarious, revealing, touching and perhaps most importantly, inspiring.

Bryson is a good-natured curmudgeon, grousing in one instant about the food or accommodations and then waxing poetic about the tranquil beauty of some idyllic vista or township. These are the accounts of travel by someone who would make a wonderful addition to a cocktail party, relating both the triumphs and tragedies of their adventures with a remarkable eye for detail and a perpetual twinkling eye. He walks most places, travels by bus and train as much as possible and reflects on the character of the places rather than focus on the fiddly details of excessive human interaction. This is a tale of solitary travel and it allows him a more detached perspective on his subject. Above all he makes it seem as if this were the correct way to travel, somehow without ever saying so rendering guided tours and group outings crass and insincere.

The only possible complaint about the book is that as enjoyable as his misadventures can be, he does occasionally wander too often into drab details of menu items or hotel room accessories. Meanwhile his deft insertion of historical fact into descriptions of ancient locales is a rare treat, and if an editor had either excised the dull parts or convinced Bryson to exchange them for more wonderful contextualizing, the book would have been a smoother read.

Still, if the success of a book about travel could be measured by how strongly it entices the desire to visit the places described, Neither Here Nor There can be counted as nothing but a rousing victory for the author.
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05/29/2009 page 19
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