Book Review: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson


Every time I read a Bill Bryson book, I feel sad that it took me so long to try his books. I did make up for it by picking up his books whenever I could though:) His incredible sense of humour makes his books such a pleasure to read.

Bill Bryson’s memoir of growing up in the 1950 in Des Moines, Iowa, makes a delightful, laugh out loud read. It had me chuckling away, trying hard to be discreet(and failing miserably, I have to add) in the most inopportune of places. His writing transports you to the places and experiences that he describes. Some of them, unthinkable today.

I loved some of his descriptions of his home life. I loved his family! They are loving and close-knit, but eccentric.

For instance

It’s a bit burned,” my mother would say apologetically at every meal, presenting you with a piece of meat that looked like something — a much-loved pet perhaps — salvaged from a tragic house fire. “But I think I scraped off most of the burned part,” she would add, overlooking that this included every bit of it that had once been flesh.

Happily, all this suited my father. His palate only responded to two tastes – burned and ice cream — so everything suited him so long as it was sufficiently dark and not too startlingly flavorful. Theirs truly was a marriage made in heaven, for no one could burn food like my mother or eat it like my dad.

Bryson takes us on a journey through Des Moines in the 1950s in his characteristic irreverent style, which more often than no, had me chuckling away. He and his friends’ exploits, some harmless, some ending in a not so harmless way. He recounts of a older time without the usual nostalgia that goes ‘Things were so much simpler/better/nicer in those days’. He is so matter-of-fact, about things the way they were. I love writing of this sort. I am wary of books/writers who end up romaticizing an older time, because, in my opinion, things seem rosier when viewed through nostalgic lenses. None of that for Bryson. I love that about his memoir.

I wish I could go into more detail, but that would make no sense, really. Just read it, is what I would say. If you like Bill Bryson’s writing, go for it, you will love it. If you haven’t tried his books yet, why not start with this one?

I would rate it a 4.5/5. Lovely book!

About the Author
Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and worked in journalism until he became a full time writer. He is an author of several best-selling books.

This book is available from Amazon(UK) and Flipkart(India).

Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson

All through the book, the one question that kept pestering me was, ‘What kept me from reading Bill Bryson for so long?’ Seriously, I cannot figure it out. But then, I’ve done it before as well. I kept away from Harry Potter. No idea why. Just stayed away from it. And then when I did read one, finished four books in four straight nights. Sigh! But better late than never, right?

I picked up this book on a lark, as this was the only interesting book I could find in my apartment complex’s library.

After living in England for twenty years, Bill Bryson moves back to America, his home country. He finds himself a stranger in his own country. The book is a compilation of articles that he wrote for a newspaper about his experiences in America.

I found it extremely funny and loved his sense of humour. A lot of his sentiments, I could identify with because when you move back into your home country after some years abroad, so many things seem different. The things you enjoyed and cherished might not even be part of your new experiences. The reverse culture shock that is part and parcel of moving back to a place after spending time away from it. Having gotten used to the British way of life and terminology, he struggles to remember/find out the American equivalent of things. His British wife and children, though, seem to love America while he seems to be the one having the most difficult time. Rediscovering America with it’s joys and it’s trials, all the while poking fun at himself and others around him, it was a fun read. I chuckled through the book.

Some of the chapters, though did seem dated, after all , this book was written in 1999. Some chapters about computers for instance remind you that this book is of another time. But for most part, it is Bryson’s style of poking fun at the things he observes that stands out. The sentiments and the humour, I have to say, are timeless. Reading the reviews of the book, I realize that this might be one of his not-so-great books. If that is indeed true, I can’t wait to read his other books.