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A Summer more or less

4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-05-2015

Bryson is one of my writing heroes and he has delivered another masterwork in One Summer: America 1927. However, whereas his earlier travel books had the panorama of nations of his personal experience and his later books dealt with the realms of science, language and social history, this book is about the pivotal summer of 1927 in the United States.

Primarily focusing on the race between the various teams competing for the Orteig Prize, the challenge to fly non-stop from New York to Paris and in particular Charles Lindbergh’s accomplishment, and subsequent rise to fame when he won the prize. Bryson also focuses on Babe Ruth’s record baseball season, the machinations of the Ford motor company’s replacement of the Model T, the impact of the Mississippi Flood and the associated rise of Herbert Hoover, later President Hoover. The book also includes a fair dose of the intricacies of the Roaring Twenties as a backdrop.

The stories are told in Bryson’s characteristic humorous style full of the ironies of life and capricious turns of fate that beset so many of his subjects. It is also packed with many facts and statistics which while being fascinating can sometimes lapse into the monotony of a reference book. Occasionally he does drop the ball in the areas that aren’t central to his own interests, he seems to struggle with popular culture; incorrectly referring to Mickey Mouse’s previous name as Oswald for example. But that is nit-picking Bryson’s delivers a book in a way that a skilled sportsman makes his game look effortless.

Bill Bryson’s delivery is gentle and clear but, as he references his own voice in his earlier book; The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, he speaks in a low voice. Sometimes this lacks the range to add proper characterisation to the different people within the book. Again this isn’t a critical deficiency but doesn’t lend itself to extended listening sessions.
Overall this is an interesting and informative book.

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