The Great Silence: Britain from the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age [NOOK Book]

Overview


Juliet Nicolson pieces together colorful personalities, historic moments, and intimate details to create a social history of the two years following the Great War in Britain. Not since Nicolson’s The Perfect Summer have we seen an account that so vividly captures a nation’s psyche at a particular moment in history.
The euphoria of Armistice Day 1918 vaporizes to reveal the carnage that war has left in its wake. But from Britain’s despair emerges new life. For veterans with ...
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The Great Silence: Britain from the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age

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Overview


Juliet Nicolson pieces together colorful personalities, historic moments, and intimate details to create a social history of the two years following the Great War in Britain. Not since Nicolson’s The Perfect Summer have we seen an account that so vividly captures a nation’s psyche at a particular moment in history.
The euphoria of Armistice Day 1918 vaporizes to reveal the carnage that war has left in its wake. But from Britain’s despair emerges new life. For veterans with faces demolished in the trenches, surgeon Harold Gillies brings hope with his miraculous skin-grafting procedure. Women win the vote, skirt hems leap, and Brits forget their troubles at packed dance halls. The remains of a nameless soldier are laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey. “The Great Silence,” observed in memory of the countless dead, halts citizens in silent reverence.
Nicolson crafts her narrative using a lively cast of characters: from an aging butler to a pair of newlyweds, from the Prince of Wales to T.E. Lawrence, the real-life Lawrence of Arabia. The Great Silence depicts a nation fighting the forces that threaten to tear it apart and discovering the common bonds that hold it together.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802197047
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 190,202
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author


Juliet Nicolson is the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, and the daughter of Nigel Nicolson. A journalist and writer, she lives in London and Sissinghurst, Kent. She is the author of the bestseller The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The silence that followed 'the incessant thunder' of WW I

    Juliet Nicholson has that rare ability to recreate an historic period, making it so real that we feel as though we are living it. The theme of this perfectly written book is the effect that World War I had on England, more specifically the silence that fell over this island nation after the destruction of a huge majority of the men of England. But it is far more than the agony of dealing with the deaths of almost a million young men and older soldiers. This is a book about survival and how England coped with attempting to find a plane of recovery. Nicholson's writing is filled with references to speeches and poems and writings that dealt with the sorrow: 'This book aims to discover what happened to that peaceful pre-war society after the intervening gash of war years and the death or injury of more than two and a half million men. How had society changed and how were people adapting or failing to adapt to that change. In 1920 the journalist Philip Gibbs wrote of "fits of profound depression alternating with a restless desire for pleasure" I want to know what kind of sound was made by the hinge that linked those two sensibilities.'

    What follows is a careful examination of people's responses to the devastation economically, physically, psychologically, and spiritually to that time, a time not unlike a post-apocalyptic period when death had become so common a concept that many of the populace embraced the wildness of the Roaring 20s that stepped across the Atlantic from the United States to escape its dominion. How does a country bereft of men find the continuation of family and reproduction of children? The Suffragettes moved into power in all forms of the country's business because of the need to fill the gaping holes left from the loss of manpower. Nicholson documents specific items and periods and movements that resulted from the aftermath of the Great War and even provides photographs of the ruins that stained the lives of all the inhabitants of England. 'Fighting and death had only been a part of it. The delayed response to sights and sounds, the mutilation, the hammering of guns experienced by those returning was just beginning. Would any of them recover? Would any of them find a lasting peace? Would a healing silence ever come to them, as they lay awake at night, trying to forget? This is a book about the pause that followed the cataclysm; the interval between the falling silent of the guns and the roaring of the 1920s.'

    Nicholson has the gift to make reportage into a novel. Her chapters are name Shock, Denial, Hopelessness, Dreaming, Surviving, Hope, Acceptance: 11 November 1920 etc - and in separating the various realms of response of the nation she offers us individual reports as well as surveys of groups of people and classes and how England was forever changed. It is a beautifully written document, one that carries far more power than most books about that period, and one that is especially potent at this time when we are all so surrounded by wars around the globe. A powerful and informative book.

    Grady Harp

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2010

    OK

    The subject matter for this book was a great idea. I have read a lot about the First World War but not much has been written about the time immediately following the war. When the author writes about the working class and returning solders it's a good read. When the author writes about the upper classes I became disinterested. I really don't care that Lord so and so had to sell one of his estates or the problems of finding good domestic help.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2012

    Highly recommended

    I am into reading about this time in history so this was very good for me.

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    Posted September 7, 2010

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    Posted August 3, 2010

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    Posted July 26, 2013

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    Posted September 18, 2010

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