Why I Want to Write Like Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is one of my literary heroes.  He is a master of going off on tangents and adding wonderfully interesting but loosely connected pieces of information to any given topic.  That makes him sound loose and unfocused, but his research is impeccable, and above all, he’s funny!  He has an amazing ability to compare the strangest things in ways that make sense and make you laugh.  Maybe it was all the time he spent in Yorkshire – another Yorkshireman with this ability is Jeremy Clarkson.  But more about him in a different post…

I have loved every book of Bryson’s that I’ve read, and I regularly revisit my favourites.  No one can explain complicated concepts to a layman quite like he can (A Short History of Nearly Everything).  I don’t remember most of it but when my boyfriend finishes it, I can re-read it.  I’ve been told not to lay a finger on it in the meantime….  The one I’ve read most recently, though, is At Home: A Short History of Private Life.  Being a lover of history and of Bill Bryson’s writing, this book is a true gem.  He makes our ordinary everyday lives into something extraordinary and throws some amazing humour into it too.  My all-time favourite Bryson book, however, is Made in America, an examination of American English and English English and why they differ the way they do.  The origin of motels, the expression ‘Gordon Bennett’, and whether having a stiff upper lip is really an English concept are all covered.  In fact, Bryson covers almost everything you were ever curious about but couldn’t find the answer to.

I want to write like Bryson because I want my research to be impeccable, and I want my writing to be about unusual and interesting topics that no one else (except Bryson) writes about.  If you haven’t read one of his books yet, do so immediately.  Then you’ll understand what I mean!


A Suitable Boy

What an achievement for the morning!  I have just finished reading ‘A Suitable Boy‘ by Vikram Seth.  The book is incredible – it makes for rather a long journey, but each character is so well drawn that you feel close to all of them.  And now that I’ve had to put it back on the bookcase, I feel bereft.

Set in India in the early 50’s, just after partition, Seth weaves together law, politics, religion, family and cricket.  The book centres around Lata, a young student at Brahmpur University, and her mother’s quest to marry her off suitably.  The extended family of brothers, sisters, in-laws, grandparents and friends are drawn into finding a ‘suitable boy’ for Lata, of the right colour, religion, and economic status.  In the meantime, Lata meets and falls in love with a young Muslim, Kabir.  Obviously, this relationship is doomed from the beginning, and Lata’s family find her a suitable boy.

This book is Middlemarch meets India, and like Middlemarch, you feel there is so much more to find out about each character after the book ends.  Seth is a master of language, so even though the book’s sheer size can be daunting to begin with, it is truly one of the most rewarding reads I’ve ever had.