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An English Affair Hardcover – 3 Jan 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; 1st Edition edition (3 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007435843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007435845
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 244,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Davenport-Hines won the Wolfson Prize for History for his first book, 'Dudley Docker'. He is an adviser to the 'Oxford Dictionary of National Biography' and has also written biographies of W.H. Auden and Marcel Proust. His most recent book, 'Titanic Lives' was published in 2012. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Literature, he reviews for the Spectator, Literary Review, Sunday Telegraph and Times Literary Supplement.

Product Description

Review

Independent on Sunday Books of the Year ‘Wonderful and exacting’

Mail on Sunday Books of the Year ‘A breakneck thriller and a brilliant dissection of the times’

Independent on Sunday Books of the Year ‘This is more than simply an overview of the affair…Davenport-Hines skewers an entire society’

‘A wonderful evocation of the period; a Rolls-Royce ride, with that hugely enjoyable sense of a writer being op top of his material and perfectly attuned to his subject’ David Kynaston, author of ‘Austerity Britain’

‘An outstandingly evocative portrait of a hinge moment in our recent history, as well as a treasure trove of anecdotes’ Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times

‘Fascinating … a meticulous and witty portrait of a society built on the shaky foundations of snobbery, suspicion, hypocrisy and sexual anxiety’ Mail on Sunday

‘Mesmerising. Brilliantly researched, irresistibly readable, fiercely polemical, ‘An English Affair’ ought to sit on the desk of everyone who voices a view on the entanglement of politics, media and celebrity … No book about the British past this year will cast a fiercer light on the British present’ Independent

‘His research is impeccable and the story told with lip-smacking relish’ Daily Express

‘A superb book’ Evening Standard

‘[The Profumo Affair] has found a marvellous chronicler in Davenport-Hines, an incisive writer with a terrific eye for detail’ Sunday Telegraph

‘[A] superb account of the scandal’ Mail on Sunday,

‘[This] livid, lurid but enthralling history of “sex, class and power in the age of Profumo” boasts a rare passion and bravado’ Independent

‘It is written in a wonderfully sharp and witty style, and packed with illuminating details’ Craig Brown, Books of the year, Daily Mail

About the Author

Richard Davenport-Hines won the Wolfson Prize for History for his first book, ‘Dudley Docker’. He is an adviser to the ‘Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’ and has also written biographies of W.H. Auden and Marcel Proust. His most recent book, ‘Titanic Lives’ was published in 2012. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Literature, he reviews for the Spectator, Literary Review, Sunday Telegraph and Times Literary Supplement.


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Neil Kernohan on 4 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed and learned quite a lot from this book, though I was already familiar with the threads of the Profumo/Keeler/Ward story, primarily through the John Hurt/Joanne Whalley-Kilmer movie about 25 years ago. The book fills in the rest of the tale in capturing the Tory-led politics of early 60s Britain, its starchy middle class morality and hypocrisy rooted in the class system and an establishment intent on preserving its own. It's a rather entertaining and lively examination of a country on the verge of Beatlemania and the sexual and social permissiveness that we know today.

In retrospect it's all too easy for today's generation steeped daily in tabloid celebrity and political shenanigans to wonder why there was so much fuss about an aristocratic Govt Minister sleeping with a young party girl, both of whom were connected to a society osteopath and an attache at the Russian Embassy. But this was indeed the sort of toxic mix that sparked an unprecedented scandal in post-war Britain and brought down a longstanding Tory government.

I enjoyed the excellent early thematic chapters that examine Macmillan's govt and Profumo's career, the tabloid press's relations with the establishment, crime and Rachmanism, British espionage failures at the time and London's aristocratic bohemia that so attracted glamorous young things like Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies and spat them out after services were rendered.

The author then carries us through the narrative of events which led to Profumo's resignation and Stephen Ward's trial on trumped up charges before he killed himself.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Grannyjane on 23 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was 21 when Stephen Ward came to court & committed "suicide" while in custody. I was working for Odhams Press in the Book Production Dept for two editors. One of whom was a patient/friend of Stephen Ward. I think this book gives a good background to the politics & social restrictions of the time. The editors bought pictures from Reuters, IPC & other picture agencies On a daily basis, We heard the gossip of Fleet St, so knew there was something afoot as the press could not contain their excitement! We were told that there others were involved but never names. My editor said that Stephen Ward had been coerced into suicide. I was the same age as Christine Keeler & felt the hypocrisy of the time damaged everything about her. I have enjoyed reading this book, the facts haven't changed as a previous reviewer pointed out but the background information helps you to understand why it was such a scandal. I don't suppose today it would be front page. Read it, it's a good yarn!
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Dec. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although I was born after 'The Profumo Affair' I have vague images of the characters involved and what happened, but knew very little detail. This wonderfully written book certainly filled any gaps in my knowledge, presenting a detailed and fascinating account of who was involved, what happened and painting a picture of an era when London was poised on the brink of change. Davenport-Hines (whose previous book Titanic Lives: Migrants and Millionaires, Conmen and Crew I enjoyed very much) divides this work into 'Cast' and 'Drama'. Indeed, the whole sorry affair reads something like a stage play, with a ruling class who felt they could do much as they liked, and a new group of men coming up behind them who did not subscribe to their unwritten public school ethos and revelled in making money.

Here, then, we are introduced to the people behind the names. John Profumo, the War Minister, who was married to film star Valerie Hobson. From the outside viewed as a golden couple, it was plain that Profumo had a roving eye from the earliest days of his marriage. Indeed, almost everyone we meet is affected by marital problems. From PM Harold Macmillan, whose wife Dorothy famously had a long running affair with Bob Boothby, to Bill Astor, who was on his third marriage by the time of the scandal which rocked London.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Korhomme on 24 Dec. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm reading the Kindle version. I remember what happened, at least I remember what we were told about it, the "official version". And what we were told was lies, dissimulation, fabrication, blatant racism and sexism; political jockying, opportunism, hypocrisy, cover-ups...you name it.

How could I have been quite so naïve? Well, in those days you believed "authority", the establishment, the politicians and the police; and the judiciary. And I couldn't read between the lines of journalism and official pronouncements. And if you think that phone hacking is a modern thing, just read what journalists used to do: fabrication comes to mind.

But no more. The scales have fallen off; is there any reason to believe that today's politicians, police etc are any more upstanding? I doubt it.

A must read if you remember the times; and a must read if you don't, to see just how corrupt much of Britain's life was.
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