Aug 27, 2010 12:59:01 AM
Travel literature review: Icons of England
Icons of England, edited by Bill Bryson
Rating: 4 out of 5
Reviewed by Jessica Boland
Jessica Boland works at Lonely Planet in rights and permissions. Her icons of England are the natural thermal spa in Bath, Chelsea’s King’s Road, and Pret A Manger.
I’m a huge Bill Bryson fan – he and David Sedaris are the only authors who make me laugh out loud while reading their books. So I was keen to see what sort of writings Bryson would select for the Icons of England: A Salute to the English Countryside anthology.
When he’s not busy making me guffaw, Bill Bryson is President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), an organisation that for over eighty years has been dedicated to preserving the English countryside. Icons of England was compiled to raise funds for the campaigning work of CPRE.
I was a little put off by the fact that Prince Charlie wrote the foreword, but once I turned the page on that, this book was a delight!
This paperback edition has double the amount of contributions as the original lavishly illustrated hardback edition. Contributors include well-known figures such as Michael Palin, Eric Clapton, Bryan Ferry, Kevin Spacey, Sebastian Faulks, Jo Brand, Melvyn Bragg, Trisha Goddard, Alexei Sayle, and Dick Francis.
This book is as eccentric as the English themselves! There are contributions on such varied topics as deer, postboxes, village cricket, marrows, and pub signs, and ancient trees, hares, country churchyards, family butchers, and summer fetes. There are pieces on particular locations in England, such as Land’s End, Scarborough, Hadrian’s Wall, Skiddaw Fell, and Clent Hills, and the Broads, the Euston Arch, the beach at West Witttering, and the Berkshire Downs.
My only complaint about this book is that the contributions are too short – most pieces are no more than two pages. I’d just be getting engrossed in a piece about rural sensuality or species-rich grassland, when it would suddenly end.
Bill Bryson says in his introduction to the book that “after some thirty years of devoted observation, I have come to appreciate that the things that make England what it is – which is to say, like nowhere else on Earth – and however peculiar they may seem at first blush, are actually quite endearing and often deeply admirable”. It’s obvious from his thoughtful compilation of this anthology that Bryson has a deep love and respect for England. He richly deserves his title of ‘honorary Englishman’.
This book is a joyous celebration of the English countryside.Publishers: Please send titles to be considered for review to:
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