In Neither Here nor There Bill Bryson brings his unique brand of humour to bear on Europe as he shoulders his backpack, keeps a tight hold on his wallet, and journeys from Hammerfest, the northernmost town on the continent, to Istanbul on the cusp of Asia. Whether braving the homicidal motorists of Paris, being robbed by gypsies in Florence, attempting not to order tripe and eyeballs in a German restaurant, window-shopping in the sex shops of the Reeperbahn or disputing his hotel bill in Copenhagen, Bryson takes in the sights, dissects the culture and illuminates each place and person with his hilariously caustic observations.
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Authentic Bryson, but that might be the problem
I would recommend Neither Here Nor There with reservations, because the actual traveling-around-Europe portion of the book is exactly what I wanted from Bryson. Unfortunately, he indulges too much in digressions where he displays quite unlovable character traits, some of which include:
-despising all dogs and most animals in general
-shameless objectification of women
-defending his complete lack of remorse over beating up the fat kid in his middle school.
In a travel book, I seek to identify with the author so that I may see the places he goes through his eyes. Bryson's digressions make this very difficult, and it is hard to understand why his editor permitted them to remain in the work, since they are so extraneous to the purpose of the work.
I think there is a book that covers his ORIGINAL trip through Europe with Katz, and as a fan of A Walk In The Woods, I'm curious about that one.
Bryson freely admits being completely ignorant of all non-English languages, except for mostly-forgotten lesson in school. Despite this, Roberts continually indulges in heavy accents and pronunciations that feel false in the context that Bryson has created.
Nope. I don't want to tempt Bryson into deeper navel-gazing, since this book took him to some pretty dark places already.
- M. Craft
The narrator delivers the book
It is difficult to compare audio editions with the print versions in most cases. When listening to others read a book, I almost always find I would have read it in a slightly different way. When I read a book, I put my own voices on the dialog, and I have my own way of reading and interpreting the sentences. These are small, subtle changes that I find important for my reading experience.
William Roberts does an excellent job narrating this book. I mean, Bill Bryson is who he is, funny, a great storyteller, and able to make almost any subject appear intriguing through his observations. I've read a book by him before, so I knew what I was getting for content. Therefore, William Roberts' narration came as a pleasant surprise and really made the listen a very enjoyable experience. He read with a voice much better than my own internal one, and in my opinion, emphasizing exactly the right words for each sentence, thus bringing out those extra subtleties I enjoy.
Therefore, I'm inclined to consider the audio edition better than the print version in this case.
Being from Norway, I obviously found the part where he travels to Norway particularly interesting. It is interesting to hear a foreign take of one's own culture. It is clear however, that the book is more than 20 years old now, so there's a lot of those small cultural observations that no longer applies. But, I'm old enough to remember!
I'm not going to lift a particular scene up to favorite status. The book was generally enjoyable, and not to mention a reminder of how much the world and particularly Europe has changed during the last 20 years. Some cultural differences have disappeared, some have emerged, as with currencies, politics, customs and culture.
In a way, the stories and observations are a bit outdated, but for someone of my age, that didn't lower the reading experience.
If I had had the opportunity to do so, I probably would do so. But then again, I would with any book, I guess.
In summary, I would say a very enjoyable listen, great but slightly outdated content, but with excellent narration.
- Amazon Customer