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The Great Silence: Britain from the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age Hardcover – June 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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[Nicolson has] a strong narrative, an empathic interest in characters under stress and a gift for the telling moment. The large historical shifts are here, but the small scenes steal the show eloquent.”Catherine Holmes, The Post and Courier (Charleston)
[A] vivid account of the aftermath of the carnage we glamorize as the Great War [Nicolson] excels at ferreting out revealing details [she offers] some wonderful vignettes. And the final pages of The Great Silence, which document Britain’s official tribute to the dead, are magnificent.”Miranda Seymour, The New York Times Book Review
Nicolson’s anecdotal history describes with facts and feeling the two years of silence and emptiness that followed the joyless armistice...a moving account When the unknown British soldier was buried with solemn pomp in Westminster Abbey, some found the ritual stagy, sentimental, and hypocritical but most found it healing and hopeful. Nicolson ends her history with a long and loving re-creation of this collective expression of grief and gratitude. It may make you cry.”Barbara Fisher, The Boston Globe
This is social history at its very best, as Nicolson fascinatingly describes the fast-changing lives of everyday men and women in Britain from 1918 to 1920 Colorful characters abound in Nicolson’s historically insightful and utterly absorbing narrative.”Chuck Leddy, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
A pearl of anecdotal history, The Great Silence is a satisfying companion to major studies of World War I and its aftermath as Nicolson proceeds through the familiar stages of griefdenial, anger and acceptanceshe gives you a deeper understanding of not only this brief period, but also how war’s sacrifices don’t end after the fighting stops.”Ellen Emry Heltzel, The Seattle Times
Vividly [portrays] the horrors of trench warfare and the misery of the bereaved and wounded.”Publishers Weekly
"[Nicolson’s] approach is anecdotal and eclectic, drawing freely on contemporary diaries, letters and memoirs to create an impressionistic picture of the lull preceding the Roaring 20s Nicolson is at her most effective when describing the nation’s search for a fitting public expression of its abiding sense of grief [she] observes with poignant understatement.”Elizabeth Lowry, The Wall Street Journal
If, instead of looking at the great sweep of history, you take just two years, and you find out the small, everyday things that people of all stations in life were doingthe king and his manservant, the prime minister and the postmanyou can convey a sense of the past that no conventional history can offer the method enables [Nicolson] to take us into places that even people who think they know something about the period did not know existed This is a small treasure-house of a book from a writer who understands the vital importance of small details.”Francis Beckett, The Guardian
Terribly moving so full of feeling and intelligence and interest: the densely detailed, whelmingly sad story of a country with a broken heart.”Sam Leith, The Daily Mail (UK)
This masterful book collects random details and somehow manages to orchestrate them into a symphony. Nicolson is particularly brilliant at plucking out the significant detail within the apparently ephemeral The Great Silence works beautifully as a mosaic of a country at a particular time, artfully constructed from all these extraordinary details plucked from far and wide a book that contains so much that is truly poignant or fascinating or thoughtful. Nicolson’s concluding description of the final great silencein Westminster Abbey, at the burial of the coffin of the Unknown Soldieris piercingly beautiful.”Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday (UK)
Nicolson writes with such admirable pace and fluency that it would be easy to suppose that this book had been effortlessly scribbled down. It is, on the contrary, a triumph of balance and organization; a study which comprehends the cultural and the intellectual, the political and the social, and weaves them all into a lively and convincing narrative.”Philip Ziegler, The Spectator
Juliet Nicolson’s second book of social history confirms her as one of those writersparticularly unusual among social historianswho can spin straw into gold Nicolson’s magpie delight in the richness of her material goes a long way to offering the reader an intoxicating peep-show of postwar society.”Virginia Nicholson, Eastern Daily Press
An excellent book quite a story and a worldwide lesson of horror.”Women on the Web
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Top Customer Reviews
I happen to enjoy the details of history and so was delighted to read Juliet Nicolson's fine social history of Great Britain covering the two years immediately following the end of WWI. Since wars are massively disruptive, their end generally entails massive social and economic changes for both the victor and the vanquished. Most reasonably well-educated Americans know about the economic and social upheavals that took place in Germany, Russia, and to a lesser extent, Austria-Hungary following the First World War. Fewer know much about the effects of the war on Great Britain with many assuming that as the victor, it emerged relatively unscathed except for its battlefield losses.
Well, in The Great Silence, Nicolson puts the lie to that notion. Using anecdote, she shows how the war affected all classes of British society from the humblest servants all the way up to the royal family. And it did change them all. But it wasn't all negative. There were many great advances not just socially, but also in science and in technology which resulted in a more restless, but ultimately a freer and slightly less class-ridden society.Read more ›
The 1919-1920 period saw the ending of one world and the beginning of another. Along with the lives of millions of people, World War I destroyed or at least altered much of Europe's political, cultural, and military establishment. Nicolson does an able job chronicling the physical losses felt by so many people in England during and after the war: families who lost sons, husbands, and fathers, and soldiers who were horribly wounded and disfigured. Advances in medical care meant more men survived terrible shattering wounds, but at the price of becoming objects of fear and disgust to many when they returned home missing limbs or parts of their faces. Women found new work opportunities but struggled to deal with men who, even if they were not physically wounded, often suffered what we now call PTSD.
In 1919 and 1920 there were also plenty of hints about the new world that was taking shape. Jazz music was introduced to London ballrooms, and Coco Chanel began her long and celebrated career. New technologies like airplanes and motorcars were becoming more reliable and more common.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great read, written with heart and intelligence. Well-researched with interwoven stories of diverse people, remarkable history, painful loss and sacrifice, and the efforts of an... Read morePublished 3 months ago by JackieO
Not as engaging as her last book, "The Perfect Summer" . But then, the subject of grief and loss is not as attractive, either. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Janice Ruth Smith
This book was a good read, but the message was sobering. Sad!Published 5 months ago by Careful Consumer
I was pulled into the post-WW1 era by the author's vivid vignettes and details but was often left with unanswered questions as the author jumped to another story. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ajay Warner
It's a well written book about something we don't read a lot about, which is the immediate effects of WW1 on those left behind. Read morePublished 5 months ago by R N Thornton
"The Great Silence" combines an interesting look at English society in the immediate aftermath of World War I with a tedious look at English Society in the same period. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Margery L. Goldstein
Another brilliant and beautifully written book from Juliet Nicolson. The Great Silence begins in 11/11/1918, Armistice Day. Read morePublished 8 months ago by MissElainesMusings