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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Great Silence: Britain from the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age » User review

England after the Great War

  • Jul 2, 2010
This book is an excellent companion to this author's previous work "The Perfect Summer", which tells of life in England in the last years before the tragedy of the war. Here we are told the tales of what occurred to people in the aftermath of that conflict, and on to the second anniversary of the Armistice on Novemger 11, 1920, when the body of Britain's Unknown Soldier was entombed in Westminster Abbey.

We are given glimpses of the lives of many people, from the highest levels of society to those who were "in sevice" to the aristocracy. There is an unbalance of treatment of these disparate classes, with more emphasis put on the former rather than the latter. That is not the fault of the author, I believe, but rather the result of well-known people being more written about, and also leaving their own writings about the times in which they lived.

Many famous names parade across the pages of this book, such as Winston Churchill, Coco Chanel, Thomas hardy, Robert Graves, and countless others. There are also those who are not well-known, such as Tommy Atkins, who had the fortune (or misfortune) to have the same name as the "hero" of Rudyard Kipling's poem, wherein the people say "throw him out, the brute, but it's savior of his country when the guns begin to shoot.

Just as its predecessor was, this is a book of excellent social history, and while you may not like some of the poeple you meet within its pages, the author certainly conveys a vivid picture of the mood of Britain just after the war. It reminds me of some of the early scenes in "Chariots of Fire" that showed returned servicemen in need, and the problems of adjustment they faced. Perhaps this author will give us more books that cover specific times in British history, If she does, I will certainly read them!

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review by . September 19, 2010
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, I think it's pretty much indisputable now that it, and not the second war that followed, was the watershed event of the bloody and unmourned twentieth century. Just as significant as -- and ultimately longer-lasting than -- the political changes that grew out of the war were the social changes that reshaped life in Britain and on the continent. Although we Americans experienced some of these changes, we were (blessedly) largely …
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Frank J. Konopka ()
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I'm a small town general practice attorney in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania. Books are my passion, andI read as many of them asI can. Being the President of the local library board for over … more
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Queen Mary's diary and the recollections of an under-chauffeur to the Portuguese ambassador are two of the disparate sources Nicholson (The Perfect Summer) uses in her anecdotal account of the period between the end of WWI on November 11, 1918, and the burial of an unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey two years later. Vividly portraying the horrors of trench warfare and the misery of the bereaved and wounded, she uses the metaphor of the great silence—two minutes of stillness commemorating the armistice—to explore Britons' attempts to cope with the growing despair generated by broken promises and false hopes. Industrial unrest, advances in women's rights, increasing drug use, and the new craze of jazz reveal, says Nicolson, the clamor of the nation's progress through grief. Her sometimes affecting pastiche of Britain's post-WWI mood is marred by the absence of source notes, disconnected vignettes, and minor inaccuracies, such as the origins of the word barmy (which relates to beer's froth, not to the Barming Hospital at Maidstone) and the postwar fashion for men's wristwatches. 37 b&w photos.(June)
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ISBN-10: 0802119441
ISBN-13: 978-0802119445
Author: Juliet Nicolson
Genre: History
Publisher: Grove Press
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