Monday, September 25, 2006

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

I was so excited when I heard that Bryson had a new book out. I have to admit, that though I purchased A Short History of Nearly Everything, I’ve not been able to get it read yet….shame, shame on me! This book was so worth waiting for, even though it isn’t his customary travelogue instead he takes us back in time.

He takes us on a journey back to Iowa in the 1950’s when he was a child. The Thunderbolt Kid is his alter ego, which is nicely done. How many of us didn’t think of ourselves as superheroes when we were children? I remember pretending to be Wonder Women a time or to myself. But he doesn’t over do this and make it all about that…no this is a gentle ride through what it was like in the US after World War II. He helps put things into perspective…like the fact that at the same time nuclear bombs were being tested….women were getting their first wringer-less washing machines… That stuck me as so strange the difference in the knowledge and technology being so out of sync with each other.

He also talks about his family life. Both of his parents were journalists working for the local paper, his dad covering sports and his mother home interior. This is where he gets his talent for writing, and he is obviously very proud of them. He is the youngest of three, though he is brought up more as an only child since he siblings are much older. As with most of his work, his humour is gentle and the funny bits are the parts that you can relate too. I found myself reading it all alone in the house and wanting to read parts to someone! I’m from the Midwest, but was a child in the 70s…not much was different when I was growing up…except I don’t remember the circus’s being how he explains it….nor did we do the movies like he did. But the big similarity is the people he talks about. I know those people…had potlucks with lots of Jello….I wore lots of clothes so I could go out in the winter….just so much there that made me smile!

Bryson doesn’t pull any punches though. He talks about the good and the bad, for example racial violence and civil unrest is covered. Bryson though, has a way of making you feel something really strongly, with out being preachy. He has his facts right. As with any era, there are good and bad events and attitudes that he covers. He shows how far we have come, and how far we still need to go.

The only disappointing part of the book is the years of semi-adulthood where her recounts Steven Katz’s stealing and drinking. If you have read Bryon’s other books you know about Steven Katz…however, this does go to explain some of Katz’s attitudes in the other books.

Overall, it is another fine book. A must read for his fans, and a good introduction to his style if you haven’t read him before.

I’m currently reading a Jeanne Dames mystery, so that will be my next review. Hopefully that will be ready next week.

I’ve added a new feature on the sidebar. If you don’t subscribe to something like Bloglines where you can be kept abreast of new postings on weblogs, you can subscribe to an email service. You will receive an email each time I post on to this blog. Hopefully that will be helpful for those that like to read my reviews.


Lotus Reads said...

Tantalizing review, Dawn! You really make me want to read this one by Bill Bryson even though I had convinced myself that listening to the radio adaptation of the book on BBC would be enough.

A big thank you for reviewing the book - I have been so curious about it ever since I heard (and I think I read here first)that Bryson had written a memoir of sorts.

I'm signing up for a blog update - cool idea!

kipperfrog said...

Yes, I agree, what an excellent book! I'm just finishing it off now before I go to see BB at the theatre on Tuesday, for "An evening with..", I can't wait!

Holly said...

Dawn, I'm glad I'm not the only one who hasn't finished "A Short HIstory..." - it seems to put me to sleep. But I did reread "A Walk in the Woods" recently -- I just love that book!

Lesley said...

Another Bryson fan here! Although I confess that I too, have yet to make it all the way through 'Short History' - I lucked into an ARC of 'Thunderbolt' and am looking forward to reading it, even more so now.

And kipperfrog, I'm jealous!