The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson



Some say that the first hint that Bill Bryson was not of Planet Earth came when his mother sent him to school in lime-green Capri pants. Others think it all started with his discovery, at the age of six, of a woollen jersey of rare fineness. Across the moth-holed chest was a golden thunderbolt. It may have looked like an old college football sweater, but young Bryson knew better. It was obviously the Sacred Jersey of Zap, and proved that he had been placed with this innocuous family in the middle of America to fly, become invisible, shoot guns out of people’s hands from a distance, and wear his underpants over his jeans in the manner of Superman. Bill Bryson’s first travel book opened with the immortal line, ‘I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.’ In his deeply funny new memoir, he travels back in time to explore the ordinary kid he once was, and the curious world of 1950s America. It was a happy time, when almost everything was good for you, including DDT, cigarettes and nuclear fallout. This is a book about growing up in a specific time and place. But in Bryson’s hands, it becomes everyone’s story, one that will speak volumes – especially to anyone who has ever been young.


This is the first Bryson book I have read and I really enjoyed it. The book follows Bryson’s childhood, into teen years and was very funny. I was laughing out loud at most of the story. It was easy to read, a quick and satisfying read.

Bryson does put the book in historical context and talks about historic events that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, including the Cuban Missile Crisis and the the threat of atomic bombs. However, this was interesting and often amusing as he explains how these events were viewed through a child’s eyes.

He is very honest about what he got up to as a child, including minor thefts and bunking off school. He recalls many funny events and the life he lead in 1950s Iowa. The end was a bit sad, when he talks about what remains of his childhood town and the memories of his friends. But overall, a hilarious book which I really enjoyed.


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