It is always quietly thrilling to find yourself looking at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before.
Bill Bryson turns his insatiable curiosity and boundless enthusiasm for research to a subject quite literally close to home. His home, to be precise, a former rectory in Norfolk, built in 1851. He takes the reader on a guided tour of the house, room by room, from the entry hall all the way up to the attic. Along the way, he discusses the history of just about every domestic subject: food, health, birth, death, gardening, etc. His knack for pointing out just the right absurd detail provides unexpected laughs in the midst of very serious subjects.
I was introduced to Bryson’s work during the year I spent in Manchester. It was a year after the publication of Notes from a Small Island, and Notes from a Big Country was running as a weekly column in The Mail on Sunday. Reading those columns about his reentry to the nation I’d just left, I fell a little bit in love with his writing. Fifteen years later, I still love it. I can hardly wait to see what he comes up with next.