Book Review : At Home, A Short History of Private Life
By Bill Bryson
“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”
Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has
happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has figured in the evolution of private life. Whatever happens in the world, he demonstrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture. (Courtesy of goodread.com)
Adult Point of View
I have found At Home to be very interesting, though slow reading. There is so much information, which spans such great lengths of time, I need to slow down in the reading to comprehend the scope. I maintain that the book is full of useless facts, which won’t change your life, but I happen to like useless facts. I believe it is reasonably argued that history is summed up in the home. Likewise, we could surmise that those living that history – the family within the home – are the key players in history even though they are unknown. It is amazing to think about how many ordinary people, living in ordinary ways comprise the majority of history. Individuals are highlighted through the book that were pivotal in changing how the masses lived. I was particularly curious to find out that the idyllic English countryside was actually planned by a landscape architect, Capability Brown, who changed the landscape of the entire nation. One of his detractors, Richard Owen Cambridge, of the day said he hoped to die before Brown so he could see Heaven before he had the chance to improve it. (p. 264) These are the minute bits that I love.
I highly recommend this book.