Who knew?

Bill did, that’s who.

Bill Bryson, acclaimed master of narrative non-fiction and travelogues, thought that the events that took place in America in 1927 were remarkable and that we (his readers) would be just as fascinated. He is right, although I have to admit I wasn’t sure, but given his track record I was prepared to at least start One Summer: America 1927 (Doubleday) – and wouldn’t you know it, I am so glad I did.
A couple of my colleagues are in agreement with me on this one – although we did admit to skimming the baseball stuff slightly: we all thought it was clever, interesting and well-written, one of those lovely surprising books that draws you into a time and place peopled with quirky personalities that you thought you were not interested in, but that actually you just knew nothing about.

 In this hugely entertaining book, Bryson spins a story of brawling adventure, reckless optimism and delirious energy, with a cast of unforgettable and eccentric characters, with his trademark brio, wit and authority. 1927 really does seem to have been one of those unusual years where events had immediate effects and also long-term unlooked-for results and consequences which the protagonists often never dreamt of.

In 1927, America had a booming stock market, a semi-crazed sculptor with a mad plan to carve four giant heads into Mt Rushmore (as you do… ), a president who only worked for about 4 hours a day, a devastating flood of the Mississippi, a sensational murder trial, and a youthful aviator named Charles Lindbergh who started the summer wholly unknown & finished it as the most famous man on earth – although from Bryson’s candid evaluation, not actually a person you’d want spend too much time cooped up with in a cockpit: fearless adventurers are not very comfortable people for the rest of us.
1927 also 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 by a madman, the ill-conceived decision that led to the Great Depression, the thrillingly improbable return to greatness of an over-the-hill Babe Ruth, & an almost impossible amount more…

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