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The Fateful Year: England 1914 Hardcover – 2 Jan 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st Edition edition (2 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670919217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670919215
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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)

Brisk and enjoyable, full of unexpected fascinations (Sunday Times)

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)

Spy hysteria, petty disputes, shocking art . . . an ingeniously constructed picture of England in 1914 (The Times 'Book of the Week')

A masterly snapshot of the moment before the world went mad (Evening Standard)

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)

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)

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)

As mesmerising as a great historical novel (BBC History Magazine)

About the Author

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 Non-Fiction 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; and The Fateful Year. England 1914 published in 2014. Florence Nightingale was awarded the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 Feb. 2014
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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Format: Paperback
“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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