Wednesday 22 January 2014

Review: At Home by Bill Bryson

In AT HOME, Bill Bryson applies the same irrepressible curiosity, irresistible wit, stylish prose and masterful storytelling that made A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING one of the most lauded books of the last decade, and delivers one of the most entertaining and illuminating books ever written about the history of the way we live. Bill Bryson was struck one day by the thought that we devote a lot more time to studying the battles and wars of history than to considering what history really consists of: centuries of people quietly going about their daily business - eating, sleeping and merely endeavouring to get more comfortable. And that most of the key discoveries for humankind can be found in the very fabric of the houses in which we live. This inspired him to start a journey around his own house, an old rectory in Norfolk, wandering from room to room considering how the ordinary things in life came to be. Along the way he did a prodigious amount of research on the history of anything and everything, from architecture to electricity, from food preservation to epidemics, from the spice trade to the Eiffel Tower, from crinolines to toilets; and on the brilliant, creative and often eccentric minds behind them. And he discovered that, although there may seem to be nothing as unremarkable as our domestic lives, there is a huge amount of history, interest and excitement - and even a little danger - lurking in the corners of every home.

Review: having really enjoyed reading One Summer at the end of last year and then meeting Bill Bryson himself shortly after that's I thought I really must tackle the other massive hardback I have of his still sitting unread on my shelf. This was one of the books I was going to read last summer (and the one before that) but never did. Now I did cheat a little bit because I actually listened to this one on an audiobook which I got from the library because I'd enjoyed listening to this fabulous author reading from his own work so much the last time. I actually bought my dad one of his audiobooks for Christmas so I'm sharing the joy as well.

This book was so much more interesting than I thought it was going to be. I love bill Bryson's writing style, it's so chatty and he adds in facts and anecdotes in a way that a good teacher would do when telling you about some new topic or other... I wasn't sure about the subject matter of this book, however, I thought it might be tough going. Bryson goes off on so many tangents about the history surrounding each room of the house, however that this book was actually incredibly consuming. We listened to it on a couple of long car journeys we've done recently and the time passed so quickly because we were being so entertained by the interesting facts and tit bits about various American presidents and the coining of the term eavesdropping. 

I really liked the structure of the book. Bill Bryson moves from room to room in the house introducing the way that room has developed though the ages in British, American and indeed various other cultures. He suggests interesting facts about things that have happened in that room and explores all the possible other areas of interest that are linked to that room, no matter how tenuous. The style of writing is the usual mix of fact, humour and sarcasm, the humour being so deadpan sometimes, you feel you want to give him a look of contempt, the author/reader relationship feels so real! 

There were definitely a few facts and figures that didn't interest me, and if I were reading the hardback copy that I have of this,in might flick over them, but that's just becaus of my personal interest and other readers may be strongly interested in those small paragraphs that don't really grab my attentions, this has nothing to do with the book itself or the writing within. I would definitely recommend a break from fiction with this super work of non-fiction. If you're a fan or Bill Bryson's travel writing, this will be a good transition to his more factual works for you and the audiobook is fabulous if you are wanting a change of media this Jaunary. This book was really very enjoyable although I expected nothing less from this wonderful author! 

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