Monday, November 1, 2010

At Home: A Short History of Private Life

At Home: A Short History of Private Life
By Bill Bryson
Doubleday, 2010. 497 p. Nonfiction

“Home is where the heart is” said John McLeod and that sanctuary is the focus of Bill Bryson’s current work of historical brilliance.

Bryson and family live in an old rectory in Norfolk, England, and while doing a spot of home repair one day, Bryson began to ponder the origins of home life: why the original rector needed a dining room of such grandiose proportions for his single self, why the only indoor toilet was tucked away in a small cupboard on the stair landing and seriously, what function did that extra row of buttons on his suit coat sleeve really serve?

All these questions and many more fascinating details of home living are brought to glowing life as Bryson takes us on a historical tour of our own home, room by room, cellar to roof, through the glorious past of what has now come to be commonplace. He examines the advent of the sofa (so shockingly intimate), the introduction of the mousetrap and the relief of relieving yourself indoors with the benefits of working plumbing. However mundane you thought your home used to be, you'll think so no more.

Anyway you look at it, by examining the homes of the past you’ll be forced to appreciate your home of the present—whether you’ve got a gourmet kitchen or not. A grand book to ring in the Thanksgiving season and start you listing the million blessings of our modern age.


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