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At Home: A Short History of Private Life
 
 
Author
Bill Bryson.
Publisher Anchor  
Format paperback
ISBN 9780767919395
Pages/Publication Date 577/2011
Daedalus Item Code 29703
This item is not available.
Description
The author of A Short History of Nearly Everything (which earned him both the Aventis Prize and the Descartes Prize), Bill Bryson here gives us a lively history of the world as revealed by the artifacts in the home—in Bryson's case, a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing much has happened since the Romans decamped. 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 reveals, ends up in our house—in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.

"Bryson takes readers on a tour of his house, a rural English parsonage, and finds it crammed with 10,000 years of fascinating historical bric-a-brac. Each room becomes a starting point for a free-ranging discussion of rarely noticed but foundational aspects of social life. A visit to the kitchen prompts disquisitions on food adulteration and gluttony; a peek into the bedroom reveals nutty sex nostrums and the horrors of premodern surgery; in the study we find rats and locusts; a stop in the scullery illuminates the put-upon lives of servants. Bryson follows his inquisitiveness wherever it goes, from Darwinian evolution to the invention of the lawnmower, while savoring eccentric characters and untoward events (like Queen Elizabeth I's pilfering of a subject's silverware). There are many guilty pleasures, from Bryson's droll prose—'What really turned the Victorians to bathing, however, was the realization that it could be gloriously punishing'—to the many tantalizing glimpses behind closed doors at aristocratic English country houses. In demonstrating how everything we take for granted, from comfortable furniture to smoke-free air, went from unimaginable luxury to humdrum routine, Bryson shows us how odd and improbable our own lives really are."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 
 
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