This is a great book. Allegedly Bryson is taking us on a tour around his Victorian Vicarage in Norfolk but actually he is taking us on a trip from the Great Exhibition of 1851 (the year his Vicarage was built), through the introduction of ice into England, the sexual peccadilloes of Samuel Pepys, the building of the Eiffel Tower, to the current production  of carbon emissions.

I particularly liked the references to the roots of sayings: for example ‘sleep tight’ came from when matresses where placed on a criss-cross rope base that was more comfortable when tightened. My main issue was that I’ve already read many of the books he’s used for reference, so a lot of the information in this book wasn’t new to me – although it was great to have my memory refreshed with many facts that has escaped me the first time round and in such an easy-going style.

My only other issue was entirely my own fault – on buying the book I presumed it would be along the lines of The Victorian House  by Judith Flanders. Whilst I was a little disappointed on the lack of detail about the actual social history of the house itself, this was more than compensated for by the wide-ranging and informative discussion Bryson led me through.