One Summer – America 1927 by Bill Bryson.
I’ve read several Bryson books and mostly enjoyed them. This was the latest to land in my lap and was a little different to the normal ‘quirky travel book’. It charts the summer of 1927 which shaped the future of the USA and indeed the world for a long time to come. I know little of American history but have no doubt that Bryson has done his research correctly and there is no doubt that 1927 was a hell of a year. From May to September of that year a whole load of stuff happened that’s for sure. It began with a notorious murder trial in New York while large parts of the country were underwater from a huge flood of the Mississippi. Charles Lindberg became the first man to fly across the Atlantic whilst other tried and failed, some dying in the attempt. Top bankers from USA, Britain & Germany held a meeting and made decisions that led to the stock market crash. 44 people were killed when a nutter blew up a school. Prohibition was in full swing (we all know what a good idea that turned out to be) but the tide was turning and someone (can’t remember her name but it wasn’t Elliot Ness) worked out a way to bust Al Capone (& others) through tax evasion. Two immigrant terrorists were executed, Jack Dempsey fighting Carpentier was the first sports event to be broadcast live on radio and this was followed later in the year by the Dempsey vs Tunney rematch. Also television was invented, the silent film era ended. Closer to the American heart Babe Ruth had a golden baseball season.
Hang on a minute… Dodgy bankers creating a depression, mass murder at a school, immigrants plotting terrorism, the death penalty still doesn't deter murder, gangsters growing rich from prohibition,; Hey don’t worry we have sport! 1927 or right now? Things have changed but things have stayed the same. Have we learnt anything from history?
This book was a good read because I learnt a hell of a lot about the good old USA. I find British history fascinating and America’s short history intriguing. I knew a little about Charles Lindberg but absolutely nothing about the massive flood that smashed through the states. I thought dodgy court verdicts, political corruption and fuck witted presidents were a modern phenomenon but it seems they are as old as the constitution. I was aware that racism was rife in these times (through the beautiful & brilliant Maya Angelou autobiographies) but didn’t know that there were movements towards Nazi style racial purification going on. I knew about Henry Ford, production lines and the model T but I didn’t realise what a moron the man actually was.
In general nonfiction rarely holds my attention in the same way as a good novel and ‘One Summer’ was no exception. It’s a good book that I’m glad to have read but with such a broad subject there will always be sections I find fascinating and others I can’t be bothered with.
“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak was as good as any book I read last year so I don’t know how I forgot to mention it the other day. It’s set in Germany during the Second World War and describes the lives of the ordinary German people through the war years. We forget these people suffered just as our own grandparents did. If the author is to be believed many ordinary Germans were offended by the Third Reich too. The story is told by Death as he charts the life of a young girl Leisel, who sees tragedy, friendship, love, bravery and more tragedy. She thieves a few books along the way too. That makes it sound gloomy which it isn’t, there is humour throughout and it’s an uplifting experience. I loved it.
England are currently playing a three way ODI series in Australia who predictably beat us in the first match. Next up England managed to batter India and its particularly nice to see Finn getting a load of wickets. In a few hours we play our third game of the series against the Aussies again, we must be due a win against them?