Prohibition in the U. One of those years was so Prohibition gets a chapter in the book. There is no lack of stories about Prohibition and Bryson tells many of them — poisons being added to some forms of alcohol and padlocked establishments having customers enter through the back door are a couple of examples.
You may think that with four seasons in a year, each would have three months.
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You will not be surprised, I am sure, to learn that for the purposes of his book Bill Bryson extended the summer of to five months — May through September. You just have to go along for the ride. The flight of Commander Richard Byrd from New York to Paris weeks after Lindbergh is given some considerable attention although Byrd arrived in Paris by train since the plane was forced to land in the ocean along the coast of France.
Evidence is given of serious misinformation given by Byrd and his chief pilot Bert Acosta about the trip; foremost is the fact that the co-pilot Bernt Balchen actually did almost all of the actual piloting as a result of the lack of skill of the pilot Acosta who knew nothing about flying on instruments, an integral part of the journey.
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Cramming events of other years into continued with abandon: For Warren G. Harding, the summer of was not a good one, which was perhaps a little surprising since he had been dead for nearly four years by then. When he died suddenly in San Francisco on August 2, … he was widely liked and admired. Frippery may be too strong a word but no one should expect too much of consequence from this book. The ARC I read was missing the bibliography and notes from the end, additions that may be of value to those who are interested in pursuing the historical aspects of the book.
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But I think you will likely find One Summer more entertaining than stimulating. More weak tangents to boxing and Fordlandia. Fordlandia was a failed Henry Ford development in Brazil in There were some well known boxing matches in that era, but, again, a summer connection is a stretch. Much of it is interesting without dwelling overlong on many of the topics. We are talking blurbs here of a page or two for those with a short attention span.
History in the form of birdshot. The August segment of the book leads off with a twenty page story of Sacco and Vanzetti, the Italian anarchists convicted of a payroll robbery and murder that occurred in Massachusetts in and culminated in their execution in August of After dipping briefly into the announcement of President Coolidge that he will not to run for re-election in , we find ourselves in the story of the carving of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
Zip, zip, zip. We move quickly. He names some who thought they were guilty and boldly states: Many people closely involved in the case, then and later, concluded that Sacco and Vanzetti were certainly guilty of some thing. For himself, Bryson says, Across such a distance of time, it is impossible to say anything with certainty, but there are grounds for suspecting that they were not perhaps as innocent as they made themselves out. He did not specifically note the positions of the tabloids that were often evidently a trusted source. This is one place I wish I had the final edition complete with notes.
I am sure Bryson must have been more forthcoming there. But, here again, I am probably taking this book too seriously. It is not investigative journalism by any means. In fairness I should note that serious consideration and topics are not totally absent from One Summer. The information about the eugenics movement in the s and s is chilling. In a U. Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell was decided 8 to 1 in favor of eugenic sterilization. At its peak in the s, some thirty states had sterilization laws, though only Virginia and California made wide use of them.
It is perhaps worth noting that sterilization laws remain on the books in 20 states today. Also toward the end of the book, methods of communication make a strong pitch for notice: radio, nascent television, popular authors like Zane Grey and Edgar Rice Burroughs. The popular authors outsold the F. Scott Fitzgeralds of the time. In writing about writers, Bryson makes an attempt to pin his subjects down to the summer of since this is, after all, the alleged focus of his book.
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Among serious writers of fiction, only Sinclair Lewis enjoyed robust sales in the summer of Elmer Gantry was far and away the bestselling fiction book of that year. The novel sold , copies on its first day of sale, and was cruising towards , by the end of the summer …. Hemingway produced no novel in He was mostly preoccupied with personal affairs — he divorced one wife and wed another ….
Scott Fitzgerald, the other American literary giant of the age — to us, if not to his contemporaries — produced no book in Since I have drifted into culture, let it be noted that Bela Lugosi opened on Broadway in the play Dracula in September He made his entire career from that character. We take a brief stroll down Broadway in the neighborhood of, but not the block, of And we are told that the heyday of Broadway ended about that time with the advent of the talking pictures. The movies took the Broadway audiences, actors and writers.
So says Bill Bryson. I have said a couple of times that it would be interesting to see the Notes that appear in the final edition. Seems to me that Bryson may have occasionally sacrificed facts for a good story.
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Maybe is just another way of being flexible. If you are from Chicago or Indiana, you may be pleased to hear that these two locations get some special attention from Bryson. Actually, you may not be pleased since a lot of the attention is on crime and corruption. You might not agree that Al Capone was a model citizen.
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In one short paragraph, Bill Bryson lists the events and people of the summer of that he observed for pages. As any good tabloid, the Epilogue exposes some quirks and tells how the people died. But to fill pages Bryson had to stretch out the summer to much of the year and the era to all the years the people of lived. He has entertained me, as he has done in some of his previous books, but he has neither made my spirit soar nor my mind marvel nor my pulse quicken. He has written a three star book that entertained without enthralling and that informed without compelling.
View all 15 comments. Nov 07, Miranda Reads rated it liked it Shelves: audiobook. When I picked this up, I had no idea that it would be so interesting We travel forwards and backwards in history but all events converged to a significant moment during We have Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic - a person whose fame started in and who' When I picked this up, I had no idea that it would be so interesting We travel forwards and backwards in history but all events converged to a significant moment during We have Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic - a person whose fame started in and who's fame haunted him throughout the rest of his life.
Picture mobs of fans that never dissipate. Funny, how such a popular man became only a footnote after nearly a hundred years. America became enraptured in the first big tabloid driven murder trial Ruth Snyder murdered her husband and did an extremely poor job of covering it up.
Al Capone continues what he does best - smuggling booze and murder. Herbert Hoover does a incredible job with relief efforts from the Mississippi basin flood. There's so many fun micro-histories covered in this novel. They read somewhat like vignettes but he connected them so well that the full novel was completely cohesive. I hope that someday there will be a sequel of the same nature. Audiobook Comments Read by the author and it was a delight to listen to. He was so enthusiastic about his book - made it a lot of fun! Blog Instagram Twitter View 2 comments.
Jul 04, Dedra rated it it was amazing. A five star review from an avowed fiction reader for a non fiction book is pretty rare. But this book kept me just as enthralled as a great novel. What a summer was and what a storyteller Bill Bryson is! From the fascinating little known facts about Charles Lindbergh's flight and all the disastrous attempts before him that I had to read aloud to my husband saying, "Did you know this?
Don't let the size of this book stop you. When I finished it, I wished it were longer. View 1 comment. Nov 07, Paula rated it liked it.