Subtitle: A Short History of Private Life
Author: Bill Bryson
Publisher/Format: Doubleday (2010), Hardcover, 512 pages
Setting: the world
Genre: non-fiction- narrative history
Source: publisher review copy
Only Bill Bryson can set out to take us on a tour of an old English parsonage (vintage 1860ish) and end up giving us a two semester history course covering at least 4 centuries.
He takes each space in the house, begins by telling us how it was used, but then ventures off on a guided tour of everything remotely associated with that room. Hallways become an excuse to talk about building materials and techniques (brick making, concrete pouring), bathrooms yield us an entire story of man's dealings with human waste and the diseases that result from poor handling of same; bedrooms become the excuse for a story of man's attempts to live privately, kitchens give us lessons in cooking, utensils, fire and cooking methods as well as food preservation; sitting rooms give us the history of servants and their lives, etc.
At 512 page this qualifies as a clunkster, but a delightful one. Fortunately, it does not have to be read straight through. It is actually best read one chapter (and they're fairly lengthy ones) at a time, with another book in between. Altogether, when finished, the reader is certainly a more educated person, and has thousands of pieces of trivia to drop at one's next kiddie playdate, cocktail party, or at the family Thanksgiving table when Uncle Fred starts slobbering in the cranberry sauce.
I love Bill Bryson and this is one of his best. So without further ado here are
I'll be sending them an email today and they will have until 8:00pm Tuesday November 2nd to get back to me with their email addresses or I'll have to pick another winner. Congratulations to both winners, and many thanks to everyone for entering.