Book Reviews

One Summer: America 1927 (Bryson) by Bill Bryson

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List Price: £5.49

 

Kindle Edition: 562 Pages.

Published: 26 September 2013 by Transworld Digital

ISBN: 0552772569

EAN: 9780552772563

In summer 1927, America had a booming stock market, a president who worked just four hours a day (and slept much of the rest), a devastating flood of the Mississippi, a sensational murder trial, and an unknown aviator named Charles Lindbergh who became the most famous man on earth.

It was the summer that saw the birth of talking pictures, the invention of television, the peak of Al Capone’s reign of terror, the horrifying bombing of a school in Michigan, the thrillingly improbable return to greatness of over-the-hill baseball player Babe Ruth, and an almost impossible amount more.

Reviews

4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars  by Anne

Idiosyncratic but engaging

This is a bit of a mixed book - rather idiosyncratic. It is obviously not the full history of America during the summer of 1927 as it is limited in what it covers. It doesn't limit the narrative to the year in question either as the author tells stories which feature in that year but which extend into the past and the future. It is actually just some interesting stories about things that mostly happened in 1927 which the author wanted to write about and which he felt showed something about the times and the country. Having said that - I found it endlessly fascinating.

The main theme of the book is the attempt to fly a plane across the Atlantic - Lindberg's successful flight occurs during the summer but lots of other attempts are also made. The author uses these stories as the backbone of his book returning to the narrative and referencing it throughout the book. He then includes other stories - spectacular floods, murders which hit the headlines, prohibition and the rise of the gangster, Babe Ruth and baseball, and a number of other events.

The book is arranged roughly by month but the author is careful to make sure that we have the background to what is happening and in a helpful epilogue he ties up all the stories and tells us what happens to his main characters. This way of arranging the material works very well and I never got lost as the book moved from one theme to another. The history is told with the author's usual dry wit and love for the absurd so I smiled a lot when reading this and found it very entertaining.

The stories chosen are very much those which were part of popular culture - obviously the author must have picked and chosen what was included and what was left out. The book (I read this in paperback) had lots of photos which helped to understand the stories. I did find some of the baseball references beyond me but it didn't spoil the book.

I really enjoyed this idiosyncratic book - one for lovers of social history/popular culture who want an engaging read and nothing too academic.

 
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