Lucy Moore

Reach for the Skies

One Summer: America 1927

By

Doubleday 557pp £20 order from our bookshop

In 1927, as F Scott Fitzgerald put it, ‘a young Minnesotan who seemed to have had nothing to do with his generation did a heroic thing, and for a moment people set down their glasses in country clubs and speak-easies and thought of their old best dreams’. The heroic Minnesotan was Charles Lindbergh, who flew the Atlantic single-handed in May 1927, and Bill Bryson has placed him centre stage in his account of those seminal months in the summer of 1927 that for him encapsulate the 1920s in the United States.

It was, writes Bryson, quite simply ‘one hell of a summer’, and he guides the reader through its great events at dizzying pace, zipping from state to state and incident to incident in his familiar informative and conversational style. We race between the devastated flood plains of the Mississippi, where the relentlessly driven Herbert Hoover – described by Bryson as ‘the least likeable hero America has ever produced’ – was supervising the relief programme from a private train that included a car devoted solely to press operations, and New York, where, after two miserable seasons, the hard-living baseball hero Babe Ruth was preparing to redeem himself to his fans despite apparently being well past his prime. We stop off in California, where Buster Keaton was filming one of the great sequences of silent slapstick comedy in Steamboat Bill Jr. at the same time as Al Jolson was making a movie – The Jazz Singer – that, by virtue of being the first talkie, would mean the movie-going public barely registered Keaton’s moment of genius.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,