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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 11 June 2017
A moving, beautifully written account of the time just after the First World War. The author raises issues that are largely forgotten and indeed were not spoken about. Her style is compelling and immensely readable. I couldn't put it down.
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on 29 August 2016
Very readable, but whenever it strays into an area I know about, I find numerous small mistakes which cast doubt on the accuracy of the rest of it. Just as an example, Siegfried Sassoon did NOT "suffer a mental breakdown" - his doctor specifically said that he was NOT suffering from any identifiable signs of war neurosis.
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on 17 December 2015
A very good read but to my mind, the book suffers slightly from too much of a focus on the rich and the famous.
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on 14 June 2017
Most enjoyable well written and informative Highly recommended
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on 12 July 2017
Due to be read soon, thanks
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on 25 October 2015
One of those whose contributions to this sad disappointment of a book are acknowledged is Juliet Nicolson's editor at John Murray. It is difficult to see how he spent his time. Not only does he appear to have done little about the lumbering, clumsy, adjective-heavy style; he has let a number of glaring spelling errors through. Carress? Fourthcoming? Even if Ms. Nicolson couldn't rely on her editor, doesn't she have a spellchecker on her PC?

This is a pity, for the subject matter of the book is interesting enough to deserve better treatment. There are parts where that subject matter triumphs over the style, particularly in the sections on the work of Harold Gillies in repairing the grossly disfigured faces of those who were wounded at the Front, and on the creation of the Cenotaph and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. But too often the reader is confronted with a succession of facts (Nicolson rightly acknowledges the work of her researcher) strung together by prose that sets the teeth on edge. The treatment of the two years following 11th November 1918 is mostly chronological, but the chapter headings - "Hopelessness", "Release", "Yearning" - imply that there will be some sort of thematic treatment which, in fact, barely exists. As other reviewers have said, far too much space is given over to the social lives of the aristocracy and the upper middle classes. There is a whole chapter devoted to whether or not Lady Ottoline Morrell would succeed in getting into bed with one of her staff, and to the domestic travails of a young woman called Edna Clarke Hall, which is wholly irrelevant to what is supposed to be the theme of the book.

As for the style, the heart sinks before the end of the first paragraph of the first chapter is reached. We are introduced to the chauffeur and under-chauffeur of the Portuguese Ambassador, who is visiting George V at Sandringham, and we're told that "the driver and his deputy felt themselves to be hovering on the brink of a comfortable lifetime serving the great and good of the land". This makes a wholly speculative and patronising assumption about what the drivers were feeling (and in the context of what the book is supposed to be about, who cares?), expresses it in clunking prose, and rounds off with a tired old cliché ("great and good"). Things don't get any better after that.

A final word about the publishers. The dust-jacket contains a piece of staggering carelessness. It states that "Emily Davidson had thrown herself on the ground at Ascot race course". Not only is this crass - "thrown herself on the ground" is a particularly shallow and misleading way of describing a woman throwing herself under the hooves of a racehorse and getting herself killed in the process - but it's wrong. The race in question was the Derby, which is not run at Ascot but at Epsom. I appreciate that Juliet Nicolson probably doesn't write the blurbs on her dust-jackets, but it's her name over the title, and this sort of thing puts the reader off before a single page is turned.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 October 2009
"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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on 12 September 2014
A goodish curate's egg, redeemed by the interesting anecdotes on on many topics, some unexpected (e,g. Who clears up the battleground mess? It's there on pp124-5).

Don't expect a measured historical account: as outlined in the Introduction (which, it appears, few of the 1-3 star critics have bothered to read). It sets out to describe the varied ways in which grief was handled in the silence which followed the Armistice, over a two-year time-span (which, it seems to have escaped the critics, is the period usually quoted in psychological accounts of the process of grief.)

All this it does very well, in a narrative, based on the experiences of people at all levels of society, which addresses the social structure and climate of its day. The latter was set to a substantial degree by the moneyed and titled classes; working people really _did_ defer to the aristocracy, and showed enormous interest in its doings, whether from wishful thinking or justified resentment of the inequalities involved, and I have to say that I found the treatment of all social groups evenly balanced, if I bear that aspect of social attitudes in mind.

The aristocrats and the well-off were the footballers, the popular music heroes, the Posh and Becks of their day; those who complain about an apparent excess of emphasis on them might bear this in mind if they ever set out to describe the climate of our own times to a 22nd century audience, in a way that reflects everyone's interests, and not simply their own.
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on 19 November 2009
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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on 5 October 2013
A poignant account of life in Britain after the end of the First World War. Well written, apart from the inexplicable use of the word "slither" instead of "sliver" twice, there was perhaps too much information about the lives of the upper classes and not enough about how soldiers who survived the war and their families coped with its tragic aftermath.
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