19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Not What it Says on the Tin,
This review is from: At Home: A short history of private life (Hardcover)
First, the negatives. This book is billed as a "Short History of the Private Life". The premise is that Bryson takes you on a tour of his house (a Victorian rectory) room-by-room, chapter-by chapter and enlightens the reader with a history of the private life within the context of such room. Oddly Bryson fails to achieve this on two levels. Not only are the chapters barely reconcilable to the rooms they represent (e.g. a history of building materials for the Cellar; Victorian archaeologists for the attic)but also it seems lots of the material has very little to do with the 'private life' at all. Instead the reader is faced with a rambling history of anything that takes Bill's fancy. As such, I was left better educated on the history of Whaling, the science of ageing a tree by counting it's rings (dendrochronology), outbreaks of Cholera in London, and so on.
On the plus side, it was all very interesting and Bryson's writing is lively and entertaining. His digressions often left me wanting to read up more on a particular subject or individual. That being said, on finishing you are left with the feeling that you have been slightly conned into reading a completely different book to the one you were expecting.