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70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Social Change
Family Britain by David Kynaston is a comprehensive study of life in Britain after the Second World War. It is very well researched and although over 700 pages long it is written in a style which makes few strenuous demands on the reader - the pages can be turned quickly and effortlessly as the narrative unfolds.

It covers a wide range of domestic issues,...
Published on 30 Nov. 2009 by Travers Ellison

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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A strangely unstructured read
The content is fabulous, but the book's organization seemingly non-existent. This feels like stream-of-consciousness history: chapters with no clearly defined theme, only the vaguest of chronological sequences, a throwing together of apparently random material. For all that, it's a marvellously evocative mix of social and political, interjected with some keen...
Published on 1 April 2010 by Bernie Ross


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70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Social Change, 30 Nov. 2009
By 
Travers Ellison (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) (Hardcover)
Family Britain by David Kynaston is a comprehensive study of life in Britain after the Second World War. It is very well researched and although over 700 pages long it is written in a style which makes few strenuous demands on the reader - the pages can be turned quickly and effortlessly as the narrative unfolds.

It covers a wide range of domestic issues, focusing both on the poorer sections of society and those who survived the deprivations of the war from a better-off postion. The politics are carefully explained, supported by extensive quotations drawn from a wide range of sources. The author also brings into the picture vignettes of certain people who have susequently become more well-known showing where they were in their chilhood days of the 50s.

For those of us who were brought up in this period, this book provides a useful reminder of how our own lives formed part of the greater pattern of change that was unfolding. It also helps to place our own experiences into perspective. My only slight criticism is that the chapters occasionally jump from one topic to another without a clear link, but the chronlogy of the period 1951-1957 is always maintained.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true Polyphonic spree!, 15 Feb. 2010
By 
Annie "Pippin" (Perth, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) (Hardcover)
I received this book as a birthday present and what a present!

A note of honesty here, I enjoy reading social history (so there is the Nerd admission up front!), particularly English social history. However, there is something extra special about this publication. Namely, while usually reading a history book I require some fiction on the go at the same time (some Stephen King let's say....just to keep the Nerd factor at an optimum....yes and I like Torchwood....), but this is unputdownable. Do not be put off by the sheer size of the book (776 pages including index), if you are looking for a narrative that will make you smile, chuckle out loud, while providing poignant moments aplenty - then get this book! David Kynaston is to be congratulated on the remarkable achievement of putting together so many different 'voices' from people. From housewives to M.P.'s, from newspaper headlines to Mass Observation findings - they all speak to you with a remarkable immediacy. Clearly this is a winner for people who remember this period of English history, but equally so for people like myself who were not even born yet. This is no mere 'sentimental' 'good old days' nostalgia. So people from a younger generation do not be put off!

Nearing the end of this book now, I am feeling decidedly tempted to get on this site and order some more books by this writer. Great stuff! .....and need I say it?
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable, 1 Dec. 2009
By 
Mooch (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) (Hardcover)
This awesome study is the follow-up to Austerity Britain 1945-1951, and if you've read that book then you will know what to expect here. Family Britain contains the same mixture of social issues, politics, cultural developments and personal reminiscences - drawn from a wide variety of sources including Mass Observation studies and personal diaries (we continue following the lives of Nella Last, Judy Haines, Anthony Heap and the other private diarists from the first book) - with the emphasis always on how the great events and changing times affected ordinary people living ordinary lives.

(Also what may or may not become worth noting for when the paperback/s come out: Family Britain is divided into two 'books' - 'The Certainties of Place' and 'A Thicker Cut', in the same way that Austerity Britain comprised the books 'A World to Build' and 'Smoke in the Valley.')

Beginning with the Festival of Britain and ending with Eden's resignation, the book goes through the years basically chronologically, but pauses to consider the general themes and social issues of the period looking at race, class, housing, secondary schools, religion, the place of women and of course family life among many other things.

It really is a fascinating book, breathtaking in its scope and range of sources and at all times a joy to read. It was also very satisfying how the author looked at issues in order to test our conventional wisdom of the period and - pleasingly - often shows how much more complicated the true picture is (eg the place of Christianity in Britain or the state of neighbourliness and sense of community etc.) It is also frequently pretty funny, with wry asides and the inclusion of the odd amusing response in with the contemporaneous survey evidence ("Sorry, can't talk ducks look - I got no teeth!) and I always looked forward to the latest reviews from the private diary of minor civil servant and theatre nut Anthony Heap (Waiting for Godot is "infantile...dreary...preposterous," Look Back In Anger is "monotonous...puerile...nauseating.") In addition to the voices featured in the previous book we follow such now-well-known figures as Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Doris Lessing and John Fowles as well as hearing mention of kids like 'Mike' Jagger and Christine Keeler, foreshadowing the next instalment.

I would have liked a bit more politics (not at the expense of anything else though) and some of the transitions between paragraphs were a bit silly (eg after talking about two people he might continue with: "Probably neither were in Ipswich two days later when..." etc.) Plus, although the book does spend a fair amount of time in Glasgow and the English North and Midlands as well as the South, there isn't much about Wales, the rest of Scotland or Northern Ireland (nothing at all if I remember rightly) - which I know a lot of people take issue over with books that claim to be about 'Britain.'

Having said that, this book is a fantastic read for anyone with an interest in recent history and, I would think, an invaluable resource for any student or anyone
with a professional interest in this period. You don't have to have read the previous volume to enjoy this book I'm sure, though I read Austerity Britain directly before reading this so I've basically just read 1,350 pages of this stuff and if the subsequent volumes were available I would happily read straight through to the page 3,500 or whatever it will be when this series is finished. From the afterword in this book we can infer that the next volume will be called Modernity Britain.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How we lived then !, 1 May 2010
By 
Joseph Wright (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) (Hardcover)
This is a superb evocation of a sadly neglected period of post war Britain.It is a welcome reminder of what was an encouraging era in many respects of social and community life despite the continuing hardship of rationing for most of the period.At 700 pages it may be a long read but the pace rarely falters. For somone born in 1947 it was a pleasure to be reminded again how we all lived then.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Mr Kynaston, 2 Jan. 2010
By 
Mr. P. L. Spearink (Kent UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) (Hardcover)
Having enjoyed Austerity Britain so very much I was prepared to be a lttle let down by this sequel. I should not have worried, if anything it is even more enjoyable as it covers the era that I can actually remember, rather than having only heard about. I particularly liked the fact that I could say to myself 'yes, I remember that little incident or fact'. It can be read as a stand alone volume but I rather suspect that most readers will have already read Austerity. So well researched and well written is it that it's 700 odd pages simply fly by. A superb book. I look forward to the next volume.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent detailed report of the times, 27 Nov. 2009
By 
P. A. Inter (Worthing, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) (Hardcover)
Having lived through the times detailed in the book, I can recall incidents that had slipped my mind. The details contained in the book are really quite outstanding, and I would recommend it to any student of the period.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Past is A Familiar Country, 3 Jun. 2010
By 
Eugene Onegin (Lincoln England) - See all my reviews
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The word outstanding is chronically overused in reviews, but the adjective is completely apposite for this tremendous piece of social history. Why is it so good? Several reasons. Firstly, Kynaston writes with great fluency and with a light touch throughout. Secondly, his structuring of his vast treasure trove of material is logical and permits a continuous narrative to emerge from the mass of events and changes which pepper the period. However, the greatest strength of the book is that the author has done an immense amount of research in the Mass Observation archives and in personal diaries and the voices of ordinary people come through on every page offering a powerful counterweight to those historians who consider the only real history to be political and involving the deeds of the great and the good. The result is an account of the Fifties far more convincing than most and which actually help us to understand the country that Britain was and is with several myths about the decade decisively exploded. Those who look at this time through rose-coloured glasses will find much to bring back happy memories, but also a picture which is full of poverty, shortages, racial and sexual intolerance, social conservatism and an unwillingness to face the brutal reality that Britain was no longer a great power. On the other hand, those who look at the Fifties as a time of drift, imperial misadventure and a country hungry for radical change will be disappointed to learn of the lack of popular appetite for upheaval. Housing was certainly more important to most than Suez, John Osborne much less of a draw than Wilfrid Pickles. Kynaston let his material make his own arguments and the book is all the stronger as a result. Pity there are not more photos as the ones included are evocative. I was left thinking in modern Britain everything has changed and nothing has changed!
Should be on everybody's 'must read' list if you are at all interested in history or Britain 2010.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A land fit for heroes, 1 Jun. 2010
By 
Bryan A. Stone "Bryan" (Ettingen, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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Kynaston's books, taken from the 'Mass Observation' source material, represent a serious if never totally impartial insight into the way people lived in the post-WWII decade in Britain. The land was impoverished, unjust, class-ridden, industrially dropping back, and totally unprepared, politically, intellectually or socially for the shock of living in the kind of peace that had followed total war. Shortages and rationing, exhaustion, homelessness and even the weather, and a rising ground swell that great injustice was being done, are set here against the confused but earnest attempts to rebuild and, sometimes, to plan; and it took as long as the war itself, to recover, as this book starting with 1951 shows. Life was still bleak, short and sordid for many. We have forgotten this, and Kynaston lets us through his selection of material feel what it was like. Any selection has to be subjective, but I think he is fair to people and to governments in showing how they struggled, failed, lost their temper, and still laughed and made jokes about every day disasters. But these books go further; they are a judgment on anyone who thinks that the old ways are good enough, and that 'little England' is enough in itself. The seeds of injustice, ignorance and confrontation also in today's British Society go a long way back, and Kynaston lets us see the fruit they bore.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich panorama of 1950s Britain, 4 Dec. 2009
By 
MarkK (Phoenix, AZ, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) (Hardcover)
In the early 1950s Great Britain was a nation in transition. On the one hand it was still an imperial power, a workshop to much of the world, a land with a tradition-bound patriarchal society. Yet on the other it was seeing the first results of the many social and economic changes underway, with the clearing of the Victorian-era slums, the growing challenges of a multi-racial population, and the rapid proliferation of television just some of the signs pointing to the future that was to come. This transition and the people who faced it are the subjects of David Kynaston's book, which chronicles life in Britain between the Festival of Britain in 1951 and Prime Minister Anthony Eden's resignation six years later.

In many respects Kynaston's book is less a narrative of these years than a panorama that allows the reader to take in details both large and small. Through them he depicts the emergence of what he calls a "proto-consumerist" society from years of rationing and deprivation. As Britain shook off the postwar austerity, its citizens embraced the burgeoning prosperity as their due after their years of sacrifice. As Kynaston demonstrates it was a reward enjoyed by a broader swath of society than ever before, yet as more people enjoyed the benefits of prosperity a growing number of concerns were expressed about the damage being done to society, of the breakdown of communities and the rebelliousness of youth.

Kynaston recounts these years in a sympathetic and perceptive manner. Seemingly nothing is too insignificant to escape his attention, while his ability to draw significance from these trivial facts supplies added depth his account of the events and developments of the era. Yet his narrative never bogs down in the facts, transitioning smoothly from one topic to another without ever losing his reader's interest. The result is a magnificent work, a worthy sequel to his earlier volume, Austerity Britain, 1945-1951 (Tales of a New Jerusalem), and one that will leave its readers eager for the next installment of his series.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A strangely unstructured read, 1 April 2010
This review is from: Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) (Hardcover)
The content is fabulous, but the book's organization seemingly non-existent. This feels like stream-of-consciousness history: chapters with no clearly defined theme, only the vaguest of chronological sequences, a throwing together of apparently random material. For all that, it's a marvellously evocative mix of social and political, interjected with some keen analysis, and it is enjoyable to bounce suddenly from a spat between Bevan and Gaitskell, to Mrs Jones complaining about the price of tea. But the book's amorphous structure leaves my desire to LEARN things from a history book completely unfulfilled. Rather than present an understanding of the processes by which the decade evolved, it simply immerses the reader in the world of the 50s. By the time I'm finished, I'll have a much better FEELING for the decade, but I don't think I'll KNOW much more about it.
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Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem)
Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) by David Kynaston (Hardcover - 2 Nov. 2009)
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