Joy's Reviews > At Home: A Short History of Private Life

At Home by Bill Bryson
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's review
Jan 10, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: history
Read from January 10 to 23, 2011

Purportedly a history of domestic life from the Victorian age on, this seems mostly an excuse for Bryson to ramble on about things that are interesting and possibly maybe tangentially related to his ostensible topic, houses. Like, did you know that there are only about 20 molecules of francium in the planet at one time? Or that modern garbage disposals make the perfect food for rats? Why does the chapter on the cellar have nothing to do with cellars and end up talking about the Eiffel Tower? Of course the history of the dining room leads inexorably to the Sepoy Mutiny. Of course! But it's all fascinating and Bryson has a way of making what you would think the dullest history come to life. I think this book is especially interesting for those who read and write historical fiction, as it does illuminate many semi-random aspects of what life was like in the past 200-300 years. And it certainly explains why so many 18th and 19th century clergyman also produced such astounding, breakthrough scholarship.

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Reading Progress

01/10/2011 page 22
4.0% "Now I know why such an immense amount of scholarship was generated by 18th-19th century English clergy."
01/11/2011 page 160
32.0% "by golly this is just a rambling medley of fascinating historical trivia ostensibly tied together by domestic architecture."
01/12/2011 page 187
38.0% "Of course the history of the dining room leads inexorably to the Sepoy Mutiny. Of course!"
01/13/2011 page 195
39.0% "Oh, and I think the extra caster must have been for sugar!"
01/14/2011 page 210
42.0% "Well, now in the chapter on cellars, he hasn't said much about cellars. But now I know that "diaper" was originally a diamond-shaped bricklaying pattern, then adapted for baby nappies."
01/16/2011 page 257
52.0% "I just learned an awful lot about pests...including bats and the locust plagues of the 1870s."

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I'll have to give it a try. Thanks!

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