With his new book, Bill Bryson, the travel, science and almost everything else writer, explores a subject a little closer to home – his own home. It was built as a parsonage in 1851. An unusual starting point, but it leads to several unexpected journeys through history. Bryson has a way with the English language and a knack for making common things interesting and often, delightful.
Each room in the house is a chapter, from The Hall to The Attic. Each lends itself to a zigzag historical path that might explain how we ended up with a four-tined fork, or why stairs were invented. Some of these excursions can be puzzling – what does the scullery (a room for washing dishes) have to do with a major scandal in the Victorian era?
It’s all good fun, however, and Bryson usually makes the connections seems plausible. At Home is similar in feel and style to his earlier A Short History of Nearly Everything; it’s almost a sequel. With 452 pages and several illustrations, At Home is an enjoyable yet curious ride.