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The Fateful Year: England 1914 [Paperback]

Mark Bostridge
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Aug 2014

The Fateful Year by Mark Bostridge is the story of England in 1914. War with Germany, so often imagined and predicted, finally broke out when people were least prepared for it.

Here, among a crowded cast of unforgettable characters, are suffragettes, armed with axes, destroying works of art, schoolchildren going on strike in support of their teachers, and celebrity aviators thrilling spectators by looping the loop. A theatrical diva prepares to shock her audience, while an English poet in the making sets out on a midsummer railway journey that will result in the creation of a poem that remains loved and widely known to this day.

With the coming of war, England is beset by rumour and foreboding. There is hysteria about German spies, fears of invasion, while patriotic women hand out white feathers to men who have failed to rush to their country's defence. In the book's final pages, a bomb falls from the air onto British soil for the first time, and people live in expectation of air raids.

As 1914 fades out, England is preparing itself for the prospect of a war of long duration.

Mark Bostridge won the Gladstone Memorial Prize at Oxford University. His first book Vera Brittain: A Life was shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Prize, the NCR NonFiction Award, and the Fawcett Prize. His books also include the bestselling Letters from a Lost Generation; Lives for Sale, a collection of biographers' tales; Because You Died, a selection of Vera Brittain's First World War poetry and prose; and Florence Nightingale: The Woman and her Legend, which was named as a Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2008 and awarded the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography. He is currently consultant on the forthcoming feature film of Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (7 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670919225
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670919222
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A masterly snapshot of the moment before the world went mad Evening Standard Brisk and enjoyable, full of unexpected fascinations Sunday Times An absorbing kaleidoscope of events and episodes ... Hints, forewarnings, inadvertent prophecies of what was to come spike the air like pollen. There's no doubting this book's eye for a good story, or the skill in telling it Guardian A truly gripping chronicle of the mood of a nation moving unwittingly towards catastrophe. Bostridge moves deftly between public event and vivid personal experience with sympathy and imagination Financial Times A moving and myth-confronting account of 1914, Bostridge invigorates the familiar story of a year of two halves, when seven months of peace gave way to the worst period of conflict in world history. The humanity of this book intensifies the poignancy of hindsight and heightens one's awareness of the anguish felt by those survivors who remained behind -- Juliet Nicolson Telegraph, Book of the Week A wonderfully atmospheric narrative for those who are interested in the period but want more than just trenches and treaties Observer, Book of the Week Spy hysteria, petty disputes, shocking art ... an ingeniously constructed picture of England in 1914 The Times 'Book of the Week' An excellent introduction to this year's centenary of the War To End All Wars and a highly readable account for history buffs Daily Express As Bostridge shows in this beautifully written and detailed book, 1914 was a 'fateful year', England was truly never the same again Independent, Book of the Week Vivid, finely drawn Mail on Sunday

About the Author

Mark Bostridge won the Gladstone Memorial Prize at Oxford University. His books include Vera Brittain: A Life, shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Prize, the NCR Non-Fiction Award, and the Fawcett Prize, and Florence Nightingale: The Woman and her Legend, which was awarded the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography, and named as a Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2008. He is currently consultant on the forthcoming feature film of Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Portrait of England in 1914 6 Jan 2014
By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
This latest book by Mark Bostridge is a superb follow up to his book on Vera Brittain.It tells a fascinating tale of the England of 1914,an England that is not quite as idyllic as sometimes painted.

The book recounts events like the disappearance of the aviator Hamel over the Channel;he was said to be a German spy despite his British public education and connections with our Royal Family; the blazing argument between HG Wells and Bernard Shaw; the rash of strikes that broke out, in all over 1000; the suffragette movement; Irish Home Rule and the bombs that fell on a number of northern coastal towns.
In brief, he tells a story of life as it really was for the different social classes in 1914.

Thus we read of suffragettes armed with axes, school children coming out on strike in support of teachers. There are many excellent photographs, for example of a typical August Bank Holiday,and the Laundry staff in Acton, the laundry capital of West London. He describes the all too typical weather,and fashion. Mark describes the reaction to the outbreak of war, a war that had 'managed to creep up on the British people'. He has a splendid analysis of Larkin's famous poem 'MCMXIV',with its famous lines, 'Never such innocence....'.

It is an easy and engrossing read that destroys the familiar romantic image of an idyllic time on the eve of war. The myth of a lost Eden is finally laid to rest.
The author makes clear that his book ls not a 'formal history'.instead it aims to capturè the spirit and shape of 1914 before the country entered a world war.

Strongly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Fateful Year: England 1914 28 Mar 2014
By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
“Never such innocence, Never before or since”

There are, of course a great pile of books coming out this year about 1914, and the Great War. This book offers a panoramic view of the year itself in England, following the doings of the year largely chronologically, and by doing so offering us one hundred years later the opportunity to try and see how life was for the people of 1914, and how and why and when it changed, and what it meant for them individually and as a people.

We, with hindsight may know the beginning and end dates of this war; how many people were killed, injured, displaced; how Europe and indeed the world changed for ever; how the way in which this war was fought changed the face of military actions – but the people living in England (and the rest of the world) in 1914 did not. The English started the year with reports of a young boy found dead on a train; with scandals over the behaviour of suffragettes; with tales of daring young men in their flying machines broaching the skies. Not until the outbreak of war in August did many even realise there was a situation in Europe that could potentially lead to this outcome. For many, I suspect, the reality of war didn’t really register until in December 1914 when German warships bombarded Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby – these East Coast raids killed 118 and wounded about 200. Spies, recruitment, disbelief, hoarding, ignorance, patriotism, cowardice – these became the new realities of the time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grasshopping 18 Feb 2014
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Clearly written to tie in with the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1, “The Fateful Year England 1914” reminds me as regards format of Bill Bryson’s “One Summer: America 1927”. The “helicopter” approach may surprise you with all the events that were occurring simultaneously, although the author’s selection is inevitably somewhat arbitrary. Everyone is likely to learn something different from the book: in my case, about the “strike schools” where, influenced by the high level of industrial unrest, pupils protested against dogmatic and repressive school boards or about the slashing of “The Rokeby Venus” along with other works of art by militant suffragettes. The photographs of the period are also interesting.

On the other hand, I found the coverage too fragmented and superficial. The decision to devote an early chapter to a highly publicised murder of the day struck me as a rather crude and unnecessary hook (Bryson does the same), whereas the complex but less exciting topic of resistance to Irish Home Rule was so condensed as to be hard to follow. The chapter “Premonitions” is particularly bitty, in its “catch all” attempt to skate over evidence of increased anti-German feeling, fed by the press and Erskine Childers’ “The Riddle of the Sands”’, Hardy’s anti-war “Channel-Firing” poem, Holst’s composing of “Mars, The Bringer of War” and the aggression of the Vorticists. The seven chapters of Section 3 on the effects of the war in England are the most cohesive and fully developed, but out of kilter with the rest of the format.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I was in two minds about this book as I read through. Its cherry picking approach, tackling specific episodes and themes in 1914 England to the exclusion of others, at times felt rather fragmented. But this tight focus on only particular topics has its own strengths, allowing more colourful period detail to come through than might be the case in a more sweeping study. By the end everything seemed to have slipped into place and the book felt much more than the sum of its parts. The advent of war halfway through perhaps helped by providing a natural focus.

I thought a great strength was how the author let the voices of individual people shine through, quoting extensively from letters and diaries up and down the social scale. You get a real feel for real people's opinions and uncertainties as the year unfolded.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
an excellent book
Published 1 month ago by brian rowley
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet to be read! - but looking forward to ...
Yet to be read!- but looking forward to doing so.
Published 1 month ago by Barbara Doubtfire
5.0 out of 5 stars eXCELLENT READ
I am really enjoying this book. Informative and entertainingly written. This book has exceeded my expectations and I thoroughly recommend this to history lovers.
Published 3 months ago by john e porter
5.0 out of 5 stars Biography of a year
This is a fascinating book. Because of the momentous happening in 1914 we rarely hear about other happenings. Read more
Published 4 months ago by KAW
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping
A fascinating insight into the social and political climate in 1914, leading up to and heading into the First World War. No golden summer at all, as it turns out.
Published 5 months ago by Bookgeek
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing with regard to illustrations.
Having seen this book reviewed in The Telegraph it appeared to have lots of illustrations but this is not the case so that is very disappointing. An interesting read though.
Published 6 months ago by Christina Keating
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Read
There is much to be read about this terrible war and it's horrific cost in human lives. This excellent book deals with much more. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Richard Hart-Jackson
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative study of the state of the nation on the eve of war
Insightful account of Great Britain on the eve of war, particularly the social/cultural issues amid the political/international tensions that have been admirably documented in... Read more
Published 6 months ago by aidan d brennan
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant View of A Year of Contrasts
This is an excellent book that gives both a micro and macro look at the year 1914 in England. Bostridge masterfully charts the progress of this pivotal year which starts with... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr. Andrew Higgins
5.0 out of 5 stars A super book for the 1914-2014 centenary
Not finished it yet, but that doesn't matter since you can dip into themed chapters at will. A must read if we are to understand the country we live in and how it evolved through... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mrs H Anderson
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