Book Reviews

At Home: A short history of private life (Bryson) by Bill Bryson

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List Price: £8.99


Paperback: 700 Pages.

Published: 26 May 2011 by Black Swan

ISBN: 9780552772556

EAN: 9780552772556

What does history really consists of? Centuries of people quietly going about their daily business - sleeping, eating, having sex, endeavouring to get comfortable.

And where did all these normal activities take place?

At home.

This was the thought that inspired Bill Bryson to start a journey around the rooms of his own house, an 1851 Norfolk rectory, to consider how the ordinary things in life came to be. And what he discovered are surprising connections to anything from the Crystal Palace to the Eiffel Tower, from scurvy to body-snatching,from bedbugs to the Industrial Revolution, and just about everything else that has ever happened, resulting in one of the most entertaining and illuminating books ever written about the history of the way we live.


3.0 Stars3.0 Stars3.0 Stars  by Anne


Bill Bryson uses the layout and history of his own home in Norfolk to describe how people have lived through the ages. This book is divided into different rooms and, for example, we learn about the history of dress from the dressing room, of management of sewage from the bathroom and the preservation of food from the kitchen. It is written in the author's usual easy to read style and is full of interesting anecdotes.

In the end, however, the book is really nothing more than some stories from history built on a loose framework. Nothing is examined in great depth and some of the anecdotes ramble a long way from the original point. Much of the material, for no particular reason, is about American houses and history although the book is based on an English house. I am informed by the person from whom I borrowed this book that much of the material is recycled from other publications.

I would be interested in a popular history of the house and how its rooms are used but that is not this book. This is a series of anecdotes, usually about unusual people in history, built around the house as a framework. It is entertaining enough, but nothing special.

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