Monday, November 14, 2016
The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm
Posted by JaneGS
I absolutely love books like Juliet Nicolson's The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm, which I read as part of my TBR Pile Challenge for 2016. It had the right mix of social history and political history, upstairs/downstairs, royalty and abject poverty, urban and rural. It chronicled May to September of 1911 and it provided an excellent way to really get a feel for the times, the issues, and the mood of England in particular, and Europe, by extension.
The summer of 1911 in England was hot. There were endless days of over 90 degree weather, with a few that topped 100 degrees, with little or no rain. It was the summer of the coronation of George V, whose father Edward VII, for who the Edwardians took their label, had died the year before. It was the time when Nijinsky danced for England, Rupert Brooke finished his first book of poems, and dock workers throughout the ports of England struck for higher wages and better working conditions. Their wives, the jam makers, also struck, in their Sunday best.
The author is the granddaughter of Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicolson, and daughter of Nigel Nicolson, and it was fun to spot the times when she used family correspondence in her research.
Despite a decent number of illustrations, I found myself having to read with my iPad close at hand to look up images and people and events as I read.
I don't remember exactly who recommended this book to me--a wonderful book blogger out in the blogosphere--but I can highly recommend it, especially if you were devoted to Downton Abbey. In fact, I got the feeling that Julian Fellowes must have read it as part of his research. There is a good bit in the section on domestic service that worked its way into the script of the show over the years.