51 pages 1 hour read

Bill Bryson

One Summer: America, 1927

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2013

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Prologue-Part 1Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “May: The Kid”

Prologue Summary

The prologue introduces the chronological and thematic narratives of the book and characterizes the 1920s in ways that will help the reader understand the setting as the story progresses. In the months leading up to the summer of 1927, public spectacles, live entertainment, and explosive drama among celebrities and civilians fueled American media, society, and culture. Within that context was the frantic aviation race in which international pilots sometimes recklessly competed for the glory of first-time feats of flying. Attempts to fly rickety planes over great distances produced regular casualties, but these disasters did not seem to deter more and more pilots from making similar efforts. The pace of these dangerous attempts accelerated with the “Great Aviation Air Derby” sponsored by a man named Raymond Orteig, who offered a large cash prize “to the first person or persons who could fly nonstop from New York to Paris, or vice versa” (8). Bryson recounts the earliest attempts at the prize as well as the careers of some possible contenders: a French pilot who flew unprepared blew up his plane, killing two of his crew; three separate American teams tried and failed, one because of a broken plane that delayed a real attempt, and two ended with crashes that caused injuries and deaths; another flight delayed due to a broken plane intended for Italian aviator Francesco de Pinedo; and multiple missing French pilots who started journeys but never finished them.