Monday, 12 July 2010

Book Review: The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid

The life and times of the thunderbolt kid The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

Category: Non-fiction (Memoir)

Challenges: 2010 Challenge (Charity), Memorable Memoir

Synopsis: Bill Bryson tells of growing up in the 1950s and 60s in Des Moines, Iowa while also looking at America at the time.

My Thoughts: I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed with this book. I loved A Walk in the Woods and perhaps I had to high expectations. My problem with this book lay primarily in the fact that it at times felt repetitive. It also takes quite some time until we find out WHY it is called The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid. That said, it was a perfectly pleasant read and a couple of the chapters and incidents that really captured me.

The first chapter that caught my attention was the one titled Boom! In it Bryson discusses the Red Scare and how it came about. In parts it felt like he was describing today with people being stopped at borders because they looked wrong or their passport might be suspicious. The fear and suspicion then feels eerily similar to the fear and suspicion that seems to exist in our society today. Makes me wonder if we ever learn anything.

The other thing that caused some connect with me was the similarities between Brysons stories of his childhood and the stories my dad tells of his. My dad is three years younger than Bryson and grew up in Philly. He occasionally tells stories of him and his friend roaming free in much the same way as Bryson and his friends did. They knew all the local cops (who used to bring them home in the evenings on a fairly regular basis, not for being in trouble but to stop them from getting into trouble). This connection made the book feel a bit more alive to me.

The final thing that kept me reading the book was one of the aspects that made me love A Walk in the Woods: the way Bryson manages to mix facts with the personal. Bryson through facts and figures lends a certain amount of authority to the deeply personal stories he tells and this makes the book feel very alive. So…Although I doubt I will read this book again it hasn’t put me off Bryson, I have a bunch more of his book lined up.

I purchased my copy from Myrorna the Charity shop run by The Salvation Army here in Sweden.

Purchase The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid from


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


Anonymous said...

I also loved A Walk in the Woods, and although I have/had no plans to read something else by Bryson, still your review was interesting.

I just finished The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver which is partially about the red scare (I assume:) it's about the large amounts of communists that suddenly appeared in USA once they started looking (a bit too well).

My protagonist was accused of being a communist (with absolutely no proof) so I can tell you, I didn't like "the Americans" for that! :-)

Nymeth said...

I have mixed feelings about Bryson (I've read two of his books so far - loved one, disliked the other), but I do love his ability to mix random facts with a more personal angle.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about Bryson as well, but I really enjoyed reading this book. I've struggled with "Neither Here nor There" for a long time before putting it aside, but others seem to love it.
I enjoyed this book exactly because I could picture my dad reading this and recognising so much. In the end I gave the book to him on his birthday.

Jessica said...

I enjoy most of his books but this one I still havent read. Its one Ive owned for ages as well.