Book Review: Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid


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Bill Bryson is a fail-safe author – you know every book is a winner.

Yet I put off reading The Thunderbolt Kid for years because I didn’t really want to read about Bill’s childhood. It was that simple. I was happy to take dalliances with him around America, and Europe, even this small island we live on, but I drew the line at his childhood.

I guess it felt a little indulgent to know about him in grade school, and of course, could he hold my attention as a 9-year-old kid? It turned out I was way off the mark, and he could. Not only that, he would educate me about the America of the 50s, which ultimately, I believe, explains the turmoil we see in the America of today. Strap yourself in.

If you are at all fazed by the constant stream of news from across the pond, then this book will give you a good insight to the America the current America is striving to be. I think it’s a worthy read over and above the fact it’s a charming, funny, warm Bill Bryson book, ( Yes, yes, fail-safe author, I said it up there ^ ) and it’s hard to review it fully without giving spoilers away. The charm in the book is all in the reading, so please, do get yourself a copy.

America in the 50s

From a young boy’s perspective, growing into a man, Bill Bryson shows you the America that dreams are made of. A soda fountain, cherry on top, dream country. Where the paper boy throws you your daily copy, white pickets fences adorn wide sunny streets, everyone smiles and waves at their neighbours, Mum is in the kitchen with her gadgets, Dad finishes work at 5 on the dot. It’s the land of dreams. An America where everyone is a proud citizen.

I adore history and so I loved this book, so much so I’ve recommended it more than my favourite book, Sapiens. There’s a great deal of anthropology involved, as well as social history. I learned things about public figures I had no idea of, nothing I want to share now and spoil for you.

It perfectly epitomises a nation that aspired to inspire – and did. Gadgets, celebrities, gimmicks, space travel, cars, theme parks, American life in the 50s was one big carnival. A marketer’s dream client. But the cracks show like a twitch in a fixed smile, nothing can be this good. We all bought into the American dream via movies and books, and this book shows us that it was real for a short time and explains why America still yearns for it.

Think you could be the next Bill Bryson? Try your luck with one of Shirley’s Story Starters 

Karlie Simmonds

Karlie has worked in Digital Media for over 10 years, she is passionate about health and wellbeing and lives in Edinburgh with her partner, children, and Pug, Poppy.

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