Top positive review
55 people found this helpful
A beautiful read
on 31 July 2007
This is a fascinating, highly readable and wonderfully written book which takes you back to the year 1911 through the lives of some of the most prominent and interesting characters of the time. They range from Lady Diana Manners "the most beautiful young woman in England in 1911" to Lord Curzon, ex viceroy of England; from feisty union leader Mary Macarthur to cynical butler Eric Horne. The book truly succeeds in recreating the atmosphere of the time without indulging in futile nostalgia (in fact, it delves quite deeply into the social turmoil of the period) and it offers the same fast pace and intensity of a good novel while being based on "real" people and events.
When I read it, I was unaware that Juliet Nicolson was the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West and was therefore completely unbiased in my appreciation of the work. I kept, however, noticing a certain intimate feeling affecting the narration, as if the author had had a first-hand, personal experience of the times. In retrospect, her family heritage might have helped her in powerfully recreating the mood of the time. The book also appears to be in some form of dialogue with Sackville-West's The Ewardians, a novel which ends in 1911with the coronation of George V, precisely when Nicolson begins her Perfect Summer (which, incidentally, appears to be everything but perfect). It would be a good idea to read the two novels together.
If I had to find a fault, I would probably say that, at times, the huge amount of citations (which are, of course, also valuable and necessary) seem to "smother" the narration a bit. Nicolson should certainly have believed more in her own voice.
In spite of this, it is a great read.
I would highly recommend this book to anybody who is interested in Edwardian and Georgian history or literature, who loves impeccable prose (Nicolson's writing is actually more polished than her grandmother's) and is in search of something intellectually engaging without being overwhelming.