Starred Review. The granddaughter of Bloomsbury notables Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson chronicles the minutiae of the hot, sunny summer of 1911, when the rich crammed in a succession of parties as industrial strikes almost brought the country to a standstill, and WWI loomed on the horizon. Under Nicolson's lavish attentions, "upstairs" and "downstairs," the weighty and frivolous spring to vivid life. While Mary approached her upcoming coronation as queen with dread, Leonard Woolf fell in love with his Cambridge pal's sister, the budding novelist Virginia Stephen. The bewitching marchioness of Ripon arranged for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes to perform at Covent Garden, and the Times revealed that certain servants were selling juicy tidbits about their aristocratic employers to American newspapers. Trade unionist Mary Macarthur's fight for women's rights meshes artfully with racy novelist Elinor Glyn's adulterous affair with ambivalent lover Lord Curzon. Lady Diana Manners's tart observations of her debutante season segue to a rendezvous between a footman and a kitchen maid. Drawing on a wide variety of primary sources—from Churchill's memoirs to the tell-all What the Butler Winked At—journalist Nicolson's debut, a British bestseller, serves up a delightfully gossipy yet substantial slice of social history. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
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*Starred Review* The storm of the subtitle is the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, and Nicolson focuses on a particular period of quiet before that storm: the English summer of 1911, which boasted extreme heat but also day after day of sunny weather. European life was on the precipice; the forthcoming horrible years of war would bring a sudden modernism to how people lived, from king to commoner. But in that summer of 1911, "England was plump with promise," and the author seeks to "evoke the full vivid richness of how it smelt, looked, sounded, tasted and felt to be alive" in the months from May to September. She reconstructs the lives of several English individuals whose particular life-tales add to the complete picture of those ironically self-contented months. Nicholson visits, among others, Queen Mary, wife of the new king, George V ("The people in the waiting crowd were gratified to see how splendid the new Queen looked in her beautiful frock and diamonds"); politician Winston Churchill ("Life without champagne was inconceivable for Winston"); socialite Lady Dianna Manners ("the golden girl of the summer"); and butler Eric Horne ("Not quite the faithful servant he was assumed to be by the deluded individuals who employed him, Eric's was an increasingly cynical view of the changing world"). As entertaining as it is edifying. Brad Hooper
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It was just Okay. There were new particulars that I learned of that time. I did have trouble the book holding my interest, in other words, I struggled through.Published 1 month ago by JJ
Interesting book about the fascinating lives of rich people in England a few years before World War II. I particularly liked the part about Winston Churchill. Read morePublished 1 month ago by JadeBlue
I did not care for the style of writing. I thought it was confusing.Published 1 month ago by Chris Goode
Very thoughtfully of the author to put a list at the end of the book, tell what life span each charter lived.Published 2 months ago by Kindle Customer
I love a history book that reads like a novel. Each month of 1911 England is described with interesting tidbits of information about how people of every social class lived. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Laura Huddleston
Juliet Nicolson's THE PERFECT SUMMER is brilliant. She makes you feel like you are actually in England in 1911. Beautifully written.Published 2 months ago by MissElainesMusings
All about the goings on of a variety of people during the summer of 1911. This book weaves these lives together to tell the story of the impact of the drought and changes in... Read morePublished 3 months ago by TCW
The author spends a great deal of her book admiring Diana Manners Cooper..."The most beautiful woman in England in 1911" which became quite tiresome. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Margaret Mcconnell
The "Collinses," I was delighted to learn, were what English women of the upper classes called thank-you notes, because they traditionally used effusive language in the... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Barbara Stoner