This book is difficult to define, as I think are most books by Sebald. It's a mix of travel and memoir with a fair amount of history and philosophy thrown in. The starting point is a walking tour of coastal East Anglia but the narrative is easily diverted for example the outline of a dragon on a bridge takes us to Imperial China, where the bridge had been originally built for a young emperor. All the seeming disparate elements of the story are connected beautifully and the whole runs together in a dream-like stream of consciousness style. The overarching theme of the book is the transience of everything and the repetitive nature of history, how human progress is marked by the forests we have chopped down; how certain villages are fighting an endless, futile battle against coastal erosion; the thousands of trees destroyed in the 1987 hurricane that swept south east England.
The haunting atmosphere is enhanced by the eerily beautiful black and white photos that dot the text. Sebald was considered by many to be a major European writer and certainly his intelligent commentary is well worth reading, though some of his attititudes and style quirks can be annoying.