Have you ever wondered why a hall is?Did you know a hall was once a home? How did the first sofa come about and why does a fork have four tines?
From the origins of the first mousetrap, to mouse fur being used as eyebrows, Bill Bryson takes us on a ”history of the world by walking from room to room” in his trivia filled tome, At Home: A Short History of Private LIfe.
For our trip up north a few weeks ago, I checked out the audio version of At Home, read by the author, to keep us entertained for the 800 round trip miles we would cover. At 12 CD’s of unabridged words, we barely got half way through. It has taken me until today, with the due date looming, to finish the book.
It was worth every minute.
Whenever I head up to see our Minnesota limb of the family tree, I try to have an audio book with. The public library or Cracker Barrel always accommodate my whims, and off I go. Traveling alone brings about a different kind of “read” than when the Antler Man and I go up together. It is a fun challenge to select something we both will like. At Home proved to be just the right pick.
From Chippendale furniture to shellac, we travelled the miles, with an “aha” or “I didn’t know that” to chuckles at Bryson’s pithy remarks. We enjoyed listening together as the author took us from room to room in his Victorian manse and from century to century in any manner of things he chose to explore and expose. The drawing room and the kitchen, the stairs and the bedroom, and any number of items found in them or on them are exposed. We learned of fashions and fads, medicine and codes of conduct, and the good, the bad and the ugly of centuries.
My book group read Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods several years ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I saw At Home on the library shelf, I was certain that both Tom and I would enjoy it. It moves along at a good pace and the reader can easily skip a chapter (like the one on rats) without losing the gist of the book.
What more can I say? If you have a chance, I encourage you to read At Home: A Short History of Private Life and discover via Bill Bryson how the history of world always finds its way into our homes.