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78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely well written social history...
"The Great Silence" is Juliet Nicholson's second book, after publishing "The Perfect Summer" in 2007. The first book was a social history of that glorious summer of 1911, the first summer after the ending of the Victorian and Edwardian ages.

With "Silence", Nicholson has returned with a meticulously written view of the two years in England after the end of "The...
Published on 28 Oct 2009 by Jill Meyer

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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stilted view of the aftermath of war
I started reading this book with high hopes of an in-depth discussion of the social aftermath of this devastating conflict because it included a great, informative chapter on facial reconstruction that I found riveting in its detail. There was a reference to Tommy Atkins along the way, leading me to think there would be an even-handed approach to all parts of society,...
Published on 20 Oct 2010 by Mike Davey


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78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely well written social history..., 28 Oct 2009
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
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"The Great Silence" is Juliet Nicholson's second book, after publishing "The Perfect Summer" in 2007. The first book was a social history of that glorious summer of 1911, the first summer after the ending of the Victorian and Edwardian ages.

With "Silence", Nicholson has returned with a meticulously written view of the two years in England after the end of "The Great War" in 1918. British soldiers returned after demob to their homes but in many cases, their lives would never be the same after four years in the trenches in France. So many men - who had marched gaily off to war in 1914 - had been killed or badly wounded, both in body and in spirit. So many women lost their sons, husbands, brothers, and fathers. An entire generation of young men were decimated in the four years of war.

Nicholson writes about all strata of British society, both "above" stairs and "below" stairs. Some of the people she interviewed were children in 1919 and are alive today. She also relied on written histories, both personal and academic. All together, Nicholson takes the reader back to that two year post-war period that saw the beginnings of the "Roaring '20's" with a national obsession for dancing and drinking by all levels of society. She also writes about the toll the "Spanish Flu" had on those at home who caught it from returning soldiers.

Nicholson is a very good and controlled writer. This book is not yet available in the States and I had to order it from Amazon/UK. It is a wonderful look at a very interesting time in British society.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stilted view of the aftermath of war, 20 Oct 2010
By 
Mike Davey (St Georges, Telford) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War (Paperback)
I started reading this book with high hopes of an in-depth discussion of the social aftermath of this devastating conflict because it included a great, informative chapter on facial reconstruction that I found riveting in its detail. There was a reference to Tommy Atkins along the way, leading me to think there would be an even-handed approach to all parts of society, allied to an excellent writing style. However, it was not to be, as other reviewers have pointed out. By the middle of the book, the author has largely given up on any objective view of working class families and their suffering and there are extended descriptions of the Savoy, upper-class gatherings and little mention of 'ordinary' people - aligned to a falling off in the writing quality. As others have also stated, there is an alarming amount of name dropping, to little purpose. This is such a pity because there is much to commend but it is just not sustained.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Great Silence, 27 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War (Paperback)
The book arrived on time and in the conditon described. Surprisingly, it was a signed copy.

I didn't finish the book. It was irritating reportage with poorly constructed chapters and inadequate links between anecdotes. The book was London-centric and focused too much on the upper classes. It was as if the author had done lots of research, talked to lots of people and then shoved it all down on paper. The book needed dramatic editing and rewriting because there were interesting bits, such as the description of shell shock, but these were lost.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A forgotten time in history?, 19 Nov 2009
By 
Imelda "Imelda" (a village in Berkshire) - See all my reviews
I enjoyed Juliet Nicolson's previous book on the summer before WW1 and I was not disappointed with this book. It looks at the time of the Armistice on the 11th November 1918 and then the 2 years immediately after.

Taking the perspective of many different people from various walks of life, the author narrates how their world changed from that moment at 11am. Although the war was over and no-one was in danger of being killed, for a lot of people the war didn't end then.

Most poignant of all are the war widows who slept with their husbands uniform or sprinkled his shampoo on their pillow. The description of the ceremonies at the Cenotaph and the burial of the Unknown Soldier are very moving and I read them with tears in my eyes.

A valuable book on a period of history that is sometimes forgotten.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the experience of the majority, 16 Jan 2010
After reading previous reviews I was expecting a much more wide-ranging study than this. There are some interesting anecdotes in the early part of the book but overall I was left feeling disappointed. The material covered in the sections covering the Unknown Soldier has been covered recently, and in greater detail, by Neil Hanson in The Unknown Soldier, but it was the basic focus of the book which nagged away increasingly as I read it. The people who endured the most during the Great War were the working class, although you would not think so reading this volume. The author has focused on the middle and upper classes, and large parts are linked to her family connections with the latter. The experiences described here are often ones which everyday people would not have had access to, and the 'hardships' endured by the aristocracy would have found little sympathy. The disappointment felt by many, and the underlying resentment in much of society is severely under-emphasised.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly-written name-dropping, 18 April 2012
This review is from: The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War (Paperback)
How does this belong in a book about the aftermath of one of the most dreadful episodes in the shared history of our country:

'Diaghilev often appeared exhausted. Excessive consumption of food seemed in particular to sap his energy'?

And how can anyone describe this book as 'well-written' when it rejoices in such muddlement as, 'Packed between the flag-waving, hat-brandishing revellers, cigarettes stuck to their lower lips, mouths opened wide to yell out the cheers, Sitwell examined Diaghilev's reaction to the scene.' Whose lower lips? Whose mouths open wide? Surely not those of members of the upper classes? Tut, tut. Don't they teach basic grammar at public schools?

And I've only got to page 43. Does it get better?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Frequently reads more like an upper class gossip column than a serious social history, 16 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War (Paperback)
I had high hopes for this book, and was looking forward to finding out more about the two years immediately after the end of World War 1 which presaged a period of enormous social change. The book takes a chronological approach, and gives almost every chapter a one word title (e.g. Wound, Hopelessness, Yearning, Resignation etc.).

For every interesting piece of information (e.g. the tragedy of the Scottish soldiers returning to the Isle of Lewis, the Spanish flu epidemic, or the development of reconstructive surgery), there seemed to be coverage of less relevant issues (Lady Diana Cooper's addiction to cocaine and morphine, Lady Ottoline Morrell having an affair with a younger stonemason, Tom Mitford's dietary choices, or the King's uncertainty about a two minute silence).

I wonder if the immediate two year period following the war was an insufficient timeframe to understand the social impact of WW1. Certainly I found The Long Week-end: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39 by Robert Graves, and The Age of Illusion: England in the Twenties and Thirties, 1919-1940 by Ronald Blythe, which cover the longer period between World War One and World War Two, to be far more interesting and satisfying to read.

Overall I thought there was far too much emphasis on the aristocracy and, whilst a quick and easy read, ultimately it felt superficial, incoherent and a missed opportunity. It frequently read more like an upper class gossip column than a serious social history. Very disappointing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Never grabbed me, 26 Feb 2013
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I purchased this book based on a very positive review in the Sunday Times. I was disappointed at how shallow the book seemed and it has now been relegated to the top shelf of the bookcase to sit unloved and only once read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Huge disappointment, 13 Aug 2012
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This review is from: The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War (Paperback)
The book is really just a collection of research notes on the era, strung together into a vague chronological sequence. There is some attempt to show a trend / pattern, but it is all lost in meanderings into side avenues with little (or forced) attempts at continuity. Some of the individual sections are quite interesting (e.g. the film producer's contribution to TE Lawrence's reputation) but without any referencing it is impossible to decide how much is genuine and how much is Ms Nicolson's imaginative input. She must have a very good agent or a very sympathetic publisher to get this published...

(PS the acknowledgements thank the indexer, but the Kindle edition doesn't have an index which makes it even more frustrating.)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 14 Aug 2011
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This review is from: The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War (Paperback)
This book was an interesting idea - examining the two years after the Armistice - and parts of it were interesting. But the book was spoilt by the way the author made generalisations about what people were experiencing based on quotations (often with very little context)from some fairly untypical people. Whilst the people she chose to use as examples were quite interesting, I couldn't help feeling they'd been chosen because they were family connections, rather than because they shed illumination on the period as a whole.
The book felt very lightweight, and was a disappointment.
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The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War
The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War by Juliet Nicolson (Paperback - 27 May 2010)
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