Following what I think is excellent advice I’m on a mission to read 10 travel memoirs before writing my own. Not that mine are all travel, but there is fair chunk of voyage talk half way through writing the first draft of the book and it is a memoir.
I’m amazed in all the books that I have read in the last 48 months there has not been one travel memoir. Maybe Stuart Maconie’s Cider with Roadies counts or Kerouac’s On the Road?
In any case, I have heard a lot about Bill Bryson’s work and on more than one occasion have been tempted to pick a book up but alas always when there is a big pile waiting for me on the coffee table.
So now that I’m happily forced to do so, I pick the Thunderbolt Kid first. Strictly not travel, it’s about Bryson growing up in 1950’s middle America and centres on his family and school life. Well that’s all there is as a kid. He writes about his uber-forgetful mother, a terrible cook and not exactly maternal but somehow still doting. He writes about all the kids, the ones he picked on and the ones that picked on him. Then he talks about his father and this for me is the most enthralling part.
It turns out the late Mr Bryson senior was a sports journalist of some note, who stayed with the local paper, The Register, despite offers from the big boys. He also spent chunks of time away from home covering baseball games and I’m not sure if they would do that now. It’s just gorgeous to see how well he was rated by his son and touching for him to quote some phrases.
His mother also worked for the same newspaper as Bryson senior but his recollections are only of her being out for coffee, for lunch or forgetting that he was going to meet her at the office despite them having regular Friday ‘dates’. This in the days where he can stroll into a big office building and right up to her desk,
Inevitably in the American 1950s, despite young Bryson not experiencing that much himself during his tender years, he talks briefly about racism and details some local events of needless deaths.
However, the book is mostly uplifting and amusing starting with the anti communism stance of the counties leaders, a world away (or is it?) from the America of today where permission has been granted to build a mosque near the site of the old Twin Towers.
It’s about the era when everything changed; TV came, cars became a regular fixture, women could work as long as they were home makers too, missiles weapons were being tested without recognising the damage done and money was seemingly in plentiful supply. Anything was possible.
What a fantastic time to grow up.
8/10 Inspiration factor 9½/10