In inimitable Bryson style, this surprisingly deep study of the home is wittily written, enjoyable, well-researched, and revels in weird details.
I expected this book to be a more or less straightforward history of things like stoves, beds, wallpaper, and drapes. And it is a history of those things, but it's a lot more. When I picked this book up at the ILL desk, I was surprised at how long the book is. Bryson uses the home and its trappings as a springboard to talk about the development of modern European/American life.
Each chapter is devoted to a history of one particular room, and how concepts that originate there developed through the years in Europe. For example, in the chapter on the nursery, Bryson explores the concept of childhood in Europe, the life that poor and middle-class Victorian children lived, and life expectancies in European history.
In the chapter on the bedroom, we get a history of beds, but a lot of detail about the terrifying and sometimes-nauseating history of health, sickness, and pre-modern surgery, because illness and death tended to happen in the bedroom too.
Anyway, I enjoyed this very much. Bryson seems to have my exact reading preferences on file somewhere: nerdy, appreciates a sense of humor, likes weird details, enjoys ironic juxtapositioning of details, likes history, curiosity is a plus.
Recommended if you like European history, weird details about history, Bill Bryson's writing style, or are interested in architectural history.