At Home: a Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

I like Bill Bryson. I read A Short History of Everything and enjoyed it and this book is similar in structure and style. I would love to see his desk, or wherever it is he works. He collects loads of information, finds intriguing and amusing anecdotes and connections within this pile of facts, then puts it into a framework of chapters and narrative.

He has an exceptionally easy going style and his tone is never patronising. It feels like some well-informed, humble, well-intentioned and enthusiastic companion is walking beside you as all these facts and the connections between them unfold before you.

The book is full of fascinating facts. Did you know that the human excrement in rooms and corridors at the Palace of Versailles was cleaned up once a week, and only after complaints became too frequent? Did you know that Beau Brummel did not actually dress in bright colours but in only a few subdued tones; and that it was the cut of his clothes and the sheer quality that gained him his reputation? Or that beds used to be made of a frame with rope latticing to provide the ‘mattress’, which was only comfortable when stretched taut, hence the saying ‘sleep tight’?

Maybe you did know all these things but I didn’t and I thoroughly enjoyed learning them in such an entertaining and discursive manner.

Nice one, Bill.


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