Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Reviewed by Caroline Ang
I read To Hull and Back by Tom Chesshyre during my lunch break over the course of two months, and found it a pleasant (though not wildly captivating) read that I was happy to dip in and out of. From the back cover I was expecting the laugh-out-loud absurdities and snarky observations that I loved in Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island, but realized a few chapters in that this tour through Great Britain would be more understated and realistic.
I'd been to several of the places that Chesshyre visits in the book, so it was interesting to compare his descriptions with the images stored in my head. On many occasions, I thought that he was spot on - and on others, he showed me a new or different view that I'd missed. While his book didn’t spur me to immediately rush out and buy a plane ticket to experience the non-traditional tourist attractions he visited in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands for myself, it did give me a greater appreciation for the plucky and colorful inhabitants of these 'unsung' spots and the diverse natural beauty of the UK. I also learned a great deal that I didn't know about the local origins of British poets and painters, celebrity chefs, consumer brands and formative ideological movements (who knew that Salford could lay claim to the birth of communism?).
All in all, I enjoyed this book. It wasn't the most gripping piece of travel literature I have ever read - but in some strange way, that's appropriate for subject matter that covers the likes of Hull, Slough, Milton Keynes and Croydon! The point of the book seemed to be this: there is always something to discover when you travel, regardless of your destination; there are always hidden gems even in the most unlikely of places. The author treated the places he went and the people he met with respect, and certainly found some gems (albeit alongside many duds) to write home about. All in all, I’m glad to have journeyed alongside him to Hull, loads of places in between, and back.
Caroline Ang works in Lonely Planet's Oakland office in the USA.
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