One Summer: America 1927

It’s an ingenious, if risky, premise to propose to tell the story of a single season in a single year that will somehow illuminate the character of a nation. Other years have their own popularity – 1922 as the ‘year of modernism’ perhaps, or 1963 as the year ‘sex began’ (according to Philip Larkin). Narrowing it down to a summer is even more eyebrow raising. Give Bryson ( and a chance, though, to present the evidence framed by Charles Lindbergh’s astonishing transatlantic flight. America was nearing the end of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ boom in 1927, but some of its glitter clung on, in murder cases such as that of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray, charged with the ‘sash weight’ murder of Snyder’s husband. New York had just overtaken London as the world’s largest city, and the Mississippi flood meant huge migration northwards for many people, especially blacks in the South, and their presence in the increasingly stylish Bronx helped change the character of that area for decades to come. Anarchists such as Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, such novelists as Upton Sinclair reflected the new political mood, and ‘Babe’ Ruth became the greatest baseball star. Bryson’s book contends that this was the year his native land came into its own, dominating the world stage with its politicians, its newspaper industry, its wealth, and its film stars. After this year, no one else could compete against Ford’s industry, or Hollywood’s technological advancement. It’s an appealing view of history: we all love a ‘eureka’ moment, lending events an aura of romance. To decide if 1927 is the pivotal year Bryson believes, read this book. Enquire at your local library or available at


672 pages in Black Swan paperback

First published 1st October 1913

ISBN 978-0552772563



Bill Bryson




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