With just three hours left I finally gave up when the discussion went on and on about the specifications of German and Russian tanks. Overcome by boredom, I just quit. This is a hard book to audio, given the reams of statistics. It's especially tough to audio while driving. I found myself using the back button a lot to get the numbers. I'll admit that it's pretty hard to cover all of WWII in one book, but this is very England-centric and barely mentions the war in the Pacific. Short chapters on Pearl Harbor and The Battle of Midway, but that's about it. The performance was good...particularly nice impressions of Churchill!
Having read a few other Bill Bryson books, I was expecting a bit more entertainment than this book provided. Bryson and his family live in a rectory in England that was built in the mid-1800s. In the book he uses the rooms of rectory as jumping off points to discuss the history of personal family dwellings to some extent, but winds up on long, often rambling histories of Victorian England for the most part. For example the nursery leads to a discussion of child rearing in general and how Victorians treated their children in particular. The bathroom eventually lead to discussion of cholera epidemics. The kitchen somehow leads to locust plagues which struck midwestern USA in the 1870s. Much of the book is interesting, but it sometimes gets a bit too loose for my taste. Add to that the fact that the book is read by Bill Bryson, who isn't all that exciting as a reader, and the book comes up as just average in my opinion.
I first read this book when I was a teenager in the 1960s. I've always remembered it and wanted to see if it was as good the second time around. It's better. Maybe because the reader was so good, or maybe because I'm older and have a family now, but it is a wonderful book. The protagonist, Ish, is one of the very few people to survive an epidemic and the book is about his journey to find others, the small settlement of people that he winds up with and the re-formation of society. Stewart, the author, has interesting ideas about how people would react to such a disaster. It's not exactly dystopic, but has a certain bleakness about it. Well worth the time spent to listen...
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