The summer that changed the world

July 23, 2015
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One Summer: America, 1927, by Bill Bryson (Doubleday, RRP $55):

British author Bill Bryson has come up with an interesting concept for this fact-packed trip back in time, telling the story of one summer in the history of America that changed the world forever.

In 1927, the world between the two world wars, the United States was half-way through Prohibition and facing a time of rapid and often quite enormous change and all-in-all, things looked pretty good.

This book captures that one season of that one year, telling the story that season in an easy read that feels as much like a work of easily readable fiction as it does a historical narrative.

The decade dubbed the Roaring Twenties saw the US prospering after World War 1, with post-War optimism prompting many rural Americans to make the move to cities. This resulted in the agriculture industry being somewhat neglected and is often cited as one of the key that caused the 1929 stock market crash, and from there the Great Depression.

However, in the summer of 1927, the mob was on the scene, the stock market was booming, talking pictures arrived with the release of The Jazz Singer, Babe Ruth hit a record 60 home runs for the New York Yankees and Charles Lindbergh went from a nobody to the most famous bloke on the planet when he became the first man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic. America had come of age.

Most of the reviews of this book have been favourable but there have been some exceptions, with with Washington Post reviewer and history professor Douglas Brinkley saying not all the facts were correct and that he believed it lacked footnotes, and Boston Globe reviewer pointing out that it contains at least one factual error.

In all honesty, I believe they are nit-picking: there may be one not-particularly-huge error but sources are cited throughout the book and it presents a snapshot of a significant time in the history of the US that in turn had a massive impact of the rest of the world. I picked this up because the prospect of a history book written in this narrative style was appealing, not because I wanted to read a dry, academic account that featured page after page of footnotes and sources.

This is the story of a time that was a big adventure that changed the world and is an easy read. I thoroughly recommend it.

Jillian Allison-Aitken

I come from the other land down under, where men are men, and sheep are nervous. I'm a sub-editor and in the past have been a proof-reader, news editor and web editor. I am also an ex-columnist, and book and software reviewer for the local daily newspaper.I still read. A lot. And surf the web. Also a lot.You'll find a little about both of those pastimes here, and on By George.

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