What Da Cover Says: 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 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. 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.
What I says: Bill Bryson is 1 part comedian, 1 part explorer and 1 part grumpy-old-bastard, when you put those three things together you get a very funny travelogue by a reluctant traveller who dislikes most humans.
Neither Here nor There covers two journeys, one when Bill was young and touring Europe with his “mate” Katz and today where Bill is retracing that first journey. He visits France (full of psychopaths), Belgium (sooooooo dull), Scandinavia (too wet), Italy (untidy), Switzerland (grumpy people), Germany (obvious), Liechtenstein (not very big), Austria (full of tat), Bulgaria (Makes you feel guilty) and Turkey (woohoo made it to the end). Bill’s sense of humour is not for everybody, he is full of opinions of England’s neighbours (see comments above in brackets) and that can come across as a tad racist at times, I know it was him trying to be funny but I did struggle for a while when he got to Switzerland.
One of my favourite lines in the book is when he is describing the Pompidou centre and says of it’s architect, Richard Rogers; “Look, I put all the pipes on the outside, am I cute enough to kiss?”
He is not the ideal person for this type of journey, he only speaks English, he never plans ahead, he will argue over everything and refuses to try local cuisine as it is probably sheep’s eyes or something similar. This does add to his charm and regardless of all his faults you do cheer him on when he gets a win.
My second book by Bill Bryson and I’m sold, he is a very entertaining travel writer.