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Book Review: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson


Author: Bill Bryson
Genre: Memoir, History
Pub. Date: October 2006
Format: Hardcover, 288pp
Publisher: Broadway Books

The fifties were a good time to be a kid. This is the premise of Bill Bryson�s latest book The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Using his own memories of growing up in the fifties (he was born in 1951) he expounds on the people, the culture, and the politics of the time. He wanes nostalgic about growing up in Des Moines, Iowa and what it was like to grow up in a town where downtown was for everyone, not just tourists.

For me, this was an opportunity to see the world in which my parents grew up. My parents are close-mouthed people (and my grandparents too) so learning about this volatile and interesting time in their lives is difficult. Bryson spends the majority of his time on the fifties and his life as a nine year old boy much affected by the comic books he read. So the childhood of those born in the very beginning of the Atomic Age, as my parents were, was made open to me.

Although I usually abhor cursing in books, Bryson is subtle with his use and it does not detract from the memoir. His liberal political leanings are obvious in that the objects of many of his jokes are Republicans or social conservatives. However, this also does not detract from his story.

Bryson paints an interesting picture of a time when anything is possible, man is invincible, and logic in comic books is non-existent. It is an easily read (it only took me a day) fascinating memoir and history of life in the 1950�s.