And Bill Bryson hits another one out of the park!
It is sheer delight to join Bryson once again on an excursion into the America of bygone days, the groundbreaking year of 1927. This was a big year for America, it was the year of Babe Ruth's home-run record, Charles Linbergh's Transatlantic flight, and the release of "The Jazz Singer", the very first "talking picture." Obviously, it was an extremely tumultuous time for the entire world. After almost a decade of the recovery following World War I, things were starting to look up, Europe was in the process of rebuilding and America was at the top of its game (which Europeans in general and the French in particular vehemently resented). Financially, at least on this side of the pond, it appeared that even the sky wasn't the limit. The Crash of '29 and the resulting depression (though being arranged by several deluded international bankers in an undisclosed location) was beyond conception. Bryson does a wonderful job of bringing the excitement and optimism of the "Roaring '20s" (unwarranted though they may have been) to life.
Of course, as with any retrospective history, the story is not all sunshine and lemonade. The devastating floods of the lower Mississippi were the greatest in modern history, millions of acres were inundated and hundreds of thousands of people were left destitute and homeless. The Prohibition was in its seventh year and had already created a new criminal underworld that would survive its repeal two years later. Society was still reeling from the effects of the bombings and unrest promulgated in the early years of the decade and practically anyone working to achieve social justice was considered to be either a 'bolshevik' or an anarchist.
Bryson does an excellent job of teasing a narrative through the maze of intersecting events and interesting characters and 'spectacles,' with many intriguing side journeys and digressions along the way. The invention of the television, the Jack Dempsey prize fights and final days of the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti are all grists for Bryson's literary mill. You will learn how fantastically misguided the usually astute Henry Ford was when he created the ill-fated colony of "Fordlandia," a socially-engineered community deep in Amazon rainforest. And, you will be shocked to discover how the federal government poisoned thousands of its own citizens in a misguided attempt to enforce an unpopular law.
This is not so much of a book of history as it is a collection of interwoven stories from one of our most prolific and articulate writers about one of the most turbulent and remarkable periods of our near past. I believe you will find Bryson's latest effort thoroughly enjoyable, historically enlightening, tremendously educational, and exceedingly fun.