At Home: A Short History of Private Life

“I refer of course to the soaring wonder of the age known as the Eiffel Tower. Never in history has a structure been more technologically advanced, materially obsolescent, and gloriously pointless all at the same time.” (At Home by Bill Bryson)

At Home CoverThough wonderfully entertaining and informative, those coming to At Home with the idea that they will be reading a people’s history will be sorely disappointed. While some of Bryson’s points do end up connecting to improvements in the house or various changes in fashion or domestic work, it is not really a history of domesticity, but instead of the British upper and ruling class from the eighteenth century to the turn of the twentieth. Those that are familiar with British history might wish that he had favored more obscure and diverse bits of knowledge as opposed to those so well known. Anyone who has read Salt, The Ghost Map, Devil in the White City, and any of Bryson’s other works will find that they’ve covered most of the ground already. That being said, Bryson is always an excellent writer, and even a reader familiar with much of the material would be entertained by his style and still learn some fascinating facts and figures.

Recommended Action: BuyBorrowTBRAvoid

Length: 16 h 38 minutes (Audiobook Quality: Good. Bryson has a slightly nasally voice and strange pseudo-English accent, but one gets used to it quickly)

Ending: The ending to this book was extremely strange. For some reason, Bryson took it upon himself to predict the future of humanity. That prediction was bleak, shocking, and completely unsupported or examined by the rest of the book.

Further Reading: For those interested in actually looking at how the average person lived during Victorian times, you might want to check out The Victorian House by Judith Flanders.


5 thoughts on “At Home: A Short History of Private Life

  1. I agree in being disappointed with this book. I was quite excited about the premise when I first heard about it. And the first few chapters matched what I was expecting. Then it started veering off for no apparent reason into the architecture of stately homes or the history of agriculture.

  2. Pingback: The Bone Clocks | Book Lion

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