I do love Bill Bryson, and so did Mum. His sense of humour sometimes feels more British that American – very dry and acerbic – perhaps because he lived in the UK for a long time, and yet in this book one feels very strongly the deep and genuine sense of affection he has for his small town American upbringing shining through.
The ‘Thunderbolt Kid’ is Bill himself in auto-biographical mode, and he grew up in the same environment I did – one where we went out to play as soon as we could, and didn’t go home until we had to. Our parents must have known we were OK – they certainly didn’t come looking for us unless we were horribly late, meaning the streetlights had come on – and to be fair, unless something had gone horribly wrong, we were home in time for supper because we were hungry!
There’s a post that has been doing the rounds on Facebook forever…it lists the things that ‘You know you grew up in the Sixties when…’, and continues with items like, ‘giving a friend a suck on your Gobstopper’… Just to be clear for those young enough to be unfamiliar with a Gobstopper, it was a gigantic, hard-boiled sweet, about the size of a small apricot, that could potentially last for days and which changed colour and flavour as you assiduously dissolved it with your teeth and tongue, sticking it in your cheek like a chipmunk for a rest occasionally. They were wonderful – I often kept one in my pocket between sucks for up to a week, until it was, finally, pea sized ,always mint flavoured, and finishable!
This book is like the full story behind that Facebook post. If you are under, shall we say, 50, you’ll be reading it for an insight into those golden years. (Jealous much? No, probably not – you have Technology!) Older than that, you will be remembering your own childhood and having a good old giggle along the way. I recommend it to both of you – it’s not my favourite Bill Bryson, I loved his Australian book, imaginatively named ‘Down Under’, best of all, but he is a very good writer – and it is well worth a read.
As always, Mum’s copy of this book is now looking for a new home, and I shall gift it forward with much love and a wry smile plus… bad teeth from all the Gobstoppers and Woolworths Pick ‘n’ Mix, and a long, narrow scar on my leg from an incident involving barbed wire and a cow. It was the Seventies…we were allowed, in fact positively encouraged, to roam freely in fields with no adult supervision!
If it has already found a new home, you can buy a copy here from Amazon, and in the interest of full disclosure, it does help me if you do!