What do a 19th century housewife and a contemporary writer of humorous non fiction have in common? More than you might think. The housewife was Frances (Fanny) Trollope, mother of Anthony, and the contemporary writer is Bill Bryson, who presumably needs no introduction. As it happens, by pure chance, I am reading a book by each of them, to review for Issue 2 of Shiny New Books, and suddenly realised how interesting this pairing is.
Here's the thing. Fanny Trollope went to America in 1827, and when she got back to England wrote Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832). And Bill Bryson has just finished his umpteenth book, One Summer: America 1927. See what I mean? Two accounts of the state of the States, neatly and satisfyingly divided by one hundred years. Not only that, but both write with great wit and irony, simultaneously informing and entertaining.
Fanny was much reviled by American critics who thought her book was unkind. So indeed it was, but it was truthful, too. This is what Mark Twain said about it:
Mrs Trollope was so handsomely cursed and reviled by this nation [for] telling the truth... she was painting a state of things which did not change at once. ... I remember it.
As for Bryson -- well, you'll just have to wait for my reviews come out on 1 July, but I can tell you these are two excellent reads.