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4.2 out of 5 stars
The Perfect Summer: Dancing into Shadow in 1911
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 21 October 2015
It took me more than six months to get through this book: it drove me to distraction and fury so that I would pick it up, read a few pages and then toss the book aside.  I chose the book based on its blurb: "The summer of 1911 was one of the high sunlit meadows of English history but on the horizon lurked a gathering storm.". I was expecting something which would reflect the changes that were afoot in Britain's history in the few years leading up to the outbreak of the first world war. For me there was absolutely no sense of the shadow of the sub-title, and indeed I found the whole thing trite, with no real analysis of anything.

Joanna Trollope's contribution to the blurb describes the book as being "as page-turning as a novel" and therein lies one of the several problems with the book. It does read like a novel, with imputed thoughts and feelings for which there is no evidence. The writing style is gushing and frothy. More or less the entire focus of the book is the life of the aristocracy and upper classes, whether viewed from their own perspective or from that of the servants who waited upon them. For example, references to the passage of the Parliament Bill during 1911 are couched mainly in how inconvenient it was that people like Churchill had to forego some of the pleasures of the summer holiday to concentrate on their government work. Close to half the book is devoted to Queen Mary, crowned in 1911,and to Lady Diana Manners who was a deb that year and I couldn't help but think that the choice of year for the 'shadow' was driven more by these events than anything else. The epilogue to the book reinforced this feeling as I kept thinking that 1912 would have been a more appropriate year to analyse.

Overall then, this is lightweight stuff, and if the intention was to evoke the shadow of WW1 then for me the book failed miserably. Those with a serious interest in history should look elsewhere. This book's main thrust is the gilded life of the pre-WW1 upper classes and that has been done better.
5 people found this helpful
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on 10 August 2014
A pleasant read and certainly informative with regards to the higher echelons of society, but if you are looking to gain any information about the background to the Great War in terms of thoughts/fears expressed by politicians then this may not be the book for you. Whilst it perfectly encapsulates a year in England, which happened to be 1911, I had no sense of a 'Shadow'.
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on 8 March 2014
This is another book relating to the first world war but this time the previous summer when life was still calm and, how could anything ever come between this English idyll. But it did and other books chronicle the cataclysmic results. This is a good "before" prior to the horrendous"after".
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on 17 November 2016
Didn't enjoy the book - too disjointed and more a book to dip into; the condition was good and it arrived in time
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on 27 August 2016
Really good and interesting history book with a most terrible feeling of dread about it, given the horrors to come.
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on 12 July 2017
Just getting into this, thanks.
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VINE VOICEon 11 August 2016
Wickedly witty and so brilliantly researched; the most fun I have had with a book in years
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on 7 February 2014
A fascinating description of Edwardian Britain and the people that inhabited that doomed world during the course of a long hot summer.

Highly recommended.
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on 27 September 2015
nice one
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on 22 November 2015
Very good
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