Top positive review
Reviewed in the United States on July 9, 2019
‘One Summer’ is chock-full of interesting anecdotes but what stood out to me were the numerous homemade bombs that mostly anarchists deployed against notable people. Sweet Fancy Moses, the Unabomber must have wet dreams thinking of what anarchists did back in the nineteen-twenties. However, the main focus is not on bomb-happy zealots. Mr. Bryson’s argument is that the summer of 1927 was a time of exceptional events. The character that underpins the book is Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic and its ripple effects.
The author does a wonderful job explaining the nineteen-twenties and the events that occurred during that notable summer. Besides Lindbergh becoming a national hero and enduring celebrity worship almost beyond comprehension, Mr. Bryson covers such momentous things as the aging Babe Ruth’s home run pursuit, the Mississippi flood of 1927, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, the novelty of radio, the birth of television, Prohibition, how the Federal Reserve helped set into play the coming Great Depression, the New York Yankees’ exceptional season, Henry Ford, the Jack Dempsey/Gene Tunney boxing match, the execution of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, the building of Mount Rushmore, the introduction of talking movies, Ponzi schemes, the Ku Klux Klan, train travel, Al Capone and corrupt Chicago, successful authors, racism, anti-Semitism, censorship, and eugenics. He also gives colorful backstories about the events and people covered that allows the reader to appreciate the importance of the situations. The author covers a lot of ground in the 456 pages (paperback edition.) ‘One Summer’ also highlights individuals who were all the rage in the early part of the twentieth century but have faded into obscurity. Fame sure is fickle. There are 16 pages of black-and-white photographs.
It’s always a joy reading Mr. Bryson’s work. Even gloomy topics such as eugenics are written with a certain amount of sarcastic playfulness. My guess is enough time has passed that we are not as sensitive to the author’s presentation about events way back in 1927 compared to if he tried writing in the same manner about something more recent such as 9/11 attacks. I intentionally waited to read ‘One Summer’ during the mentioned season. It added another layer of texture to the book. It was easy to appreciate Mr. Bryson’s descriptions of how the people endured the terrible heatwaves when I was reading during humid ninety-degree weather. Technology has certainly advanced quite a bit since 1927. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go kiss my air conditioner.