Neither Here, Nor There: Travels in Europe
by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson’s first travel book, The Lost Continent, was unanimously acclaimed as one of the funniest books in years. In Neither Here nor There he brings his unique brand of humour to bear on Europe as he shoulders his backback, keeps a tight hold on his wallet, and journeys from Hammerfest, the northernmost town on the continent, to Istanbul on the cusp of Asia. Fluent in, oh, at least one language, he retraces his travels as a student twenty years before.
Whether braving the homicidal motorists of Paris, being robbed by gypsies in Florence, attempting not to order tripe and eyeballs in a German restaurant or window-shopping in the sex shops of the Reeperbahn, Bryson takes in the sights, dissects the culture and illuminates each place and person with his hilariously caustic observations. He even goes to Liechtenstein.
I haven’t been a great fan of many travel books, but when it comes to Europe, I like to think of myself as pretty well travelled. I was looking forward to reading about places I could relate to or places I could easily visit on my next trip abroad.
As a college student, Bill Bryson toured Europe with his friend Katz. Now 20-odd years later, Bryson is an older, married father, determined to recreate the trip.
Describing the people and places he encountered, I really enjoyed Bryson’s humour to start with. He’s witty and I definitely laughed out load a couple of times. But as Bryson continued to travel, from Scandinavia all the way through to Turkey, his style really began to grate on me. Bill Bryson is a complainer, big time! Everywhere he goes, he finds something to complain about!
Things I was chuckling at in the first few countries, quickly became immature, rude and xenophobic. Reading about someone insulting whole nations and their way of life isn’t really my cup of tea.
“I soon learned that everyone in Paris was like that. You would go into a bakery and be greeted by some vast sluglike creature with a look that told you you would never be friends. In halting French you would ask for a small loaf of bread. The woman would give you a long, cold stare and then put a dead beaver on the counter. “No, no,” you would say, hands aflutter, “not a dead beaver. A loaf of bread.”
Overall rating: I was really looking forward to learning about the cities and countries of Europe. I really did enjoy the first few chapters, but when Bryson’s humour went a bit too far, I lost interest and by the end I had almost given up. It’s 2 stars from me!