One Summer: America 1927

Written by Bill Bryson
Review by Doug Kemp

1927 was certainly an eventful year for the USA. Charles Lindbergh made the first solo transatlantic flight, and immediately became the world’s most famous man, Babe Ruth hit an extraordinary number of home runs for the New York Yankees, and the musical Show Boat was popular, as was the first talkie film The Jazz Singer.

Bill Bryson provides an informative and absorbing narrative of these momentous few months in the U.S. – pulling together a variety of social, economic, political and other notable events and trends, written in his familiar wry and dryly humorous style. He immerses the reader thoroughly into the times, customs and mores of American society. But it is one that could be surprisingly intolerant; for example, anti-Semitism was openly expressed, and there was widespread popular support for some of the more extreme measures of the eugenics movement – which were subsequently taken up by the Nazi state in Germany. But it was also the time when a dynamic and successful USA began to dominate the globe with its economic might and cultural pre-eminence: a supremacy that lasted for the rest of the century.