Having missed most of the Bill Bryson travel books the attraction of this one was not just the recommended mentions here there and everywhere but the attraction of seeing how he would tackle well trodden ground.
The first chapter reveals that barely nothing is really known about Shakespeare other than just a few scant facts and most interpretations of his life were written after his death.
That opening surprises you because it would almost be possible to close the book right now there but Bryson manages to then move on to paint a picture of the world Shakespeare was born into, using the facts he has about the Bard’s family to explain his circumstances.
Bryson then starts to paint a picture of the world in the 16th century and it is done without any of the heaviness that usually dogs history books. The fact you don’t know a great deal about Shakespeare starts to become almost irrelevant because what takes his place is the world of Elizabeth’s England.