Thursday, June 2, 2011

Review: Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson

Reading Bill Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There was a new step for me as a reader. I have entered the realm of the travelogue. As my first read in the genre I cannot readily compare this book to others like it nor have I read Bryson before. There were things I liked and things I loathed about this book so bare with me.

The text starts out strong, as Bryson explores Hammerfest, Oslo and Paris. It was a rough start to his journey and for these fifty pages I was laughing out loud. Actually, I read this section aloud to my mom. Bryson’s journey to Hammerfest revived memories of our foreign travels and we cracked up to Bryson’s sarcastic and self-deprecating sense of humor.

The next seventy pages were pure tedium as Bryson recounts mostly negative experiences and impressions while visiting several Germanic countries. The text also gravitated towards lewd jokes based off Bryson’s observations of trashy magazines, porn and such which simply did not interest me. Naked people can be found anywhere. One needn’t go to Europe to find them. This paired with his negative impressions caused the middle to drag.

Finally, Bryson breaks his route early and heads to Italy where his experience and the text became much more enjoyable. I enjoyed his Roman holiday having spent a week there myself. It was fun reliving some of the sights through the text and makes me want to go back.

The book is nearly twenty years old and while the ancient splendor of Europe remains some things have changed. For instance, the Euro has replaced country-specific currency which Bryson used. So, if you’re looking for up-to-date information this book is not what you need. Yet, if you want a feel for what an average American might experience while traveling in Europe, Bryson’s book may be for you.

Publisher: Perennial, 1992     Pages: 254     
Rating: 2.5 Stars     Source: purchased copy  


  1. I'm sorry there were parts of this book you loathed - I love all of Bryson's books dearly! His best regarded is A Walk in the Woods although I think my favorite was I'm a Stranger Here Myself.

    If you want to read other travel memoirs, I recommend: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (but not the sequel), and A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz. The 1st and 3rd have A LOT of history in them whereas the 2nd is good if you just want to hear about wine, bread, and fixing up an old house.

  2. Thanks for the recommendations, Carin! I've heard great things about A Walk in the Woods and have it waiting on my shelf. I'll get to it some time! I'd be interested in Under the Tuscan Sun although I do enjoy history. Thanks again!

  3. Oh my goodness, A Walk in the Woods is one of my favorite books EVER. My husband and I read it out loud to each other on our honeymoon and laughed out loud the whole time :) I haven't read any of his other books, but I have a feeling that Neither Here Nor There won't be the next!