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One Summer: America 1927, by Bill Bryson, Black Swan, RRP£8.99, 672 pages
At first glance, 1927 would appear to be an eccentric choice. Think of US history in the Jazz Age and 1929 springs to mind: the year of the stock market crash.
But Bill Bryson is a master of the sidelong, a man who can turn obscurity into hilarity with seemingly effortless charm. There are, it should be said, two famous anchors to hold this tale in place. One Summer begins in May with “The Kid” – Charles Lindbergh, whose solo flight across the Atlantic changed aviation history. And in June we meet “The Babe” – George Herman “Babe” Ruth, perhaps the greatest baseball player the world has ever known, who in the summer of 1927 hit 60 home runs for the Yankees.
The stories of these two men give the book a kind of unity but one senses that the author isn’t aiming to draw any real conclusions. This is a jolly jalopy ride of a book; Bryson runs down the byways of US history finding diversion in every roadside stop.