Top critical review
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on 17 February 2014
This runs together “real” history with fictional characters, part of a saga in progress, as I learnt in the acknowledgements. It did not deliver for me.
The focus is on the Cold War, from a British point of view, building up to the Cuban Missile crisis of October 1962. We also encounter Christine Keeler, William Astor and the others who will make the headlines in 1963. Much of the book is a dramatization of real events – conferences in the Kremlin and in Washington. It is passable only. The tension of those days in October is captured better in the many histories of the period.
It is now fashionable to see Stephen Ward as the real victim in the Profumo affair. Nicholson follows the fashion and, indeed, comes close to portraying the osteopath as some kind of visionary. Fictionalizing Ivanov and Ward, Keeler and Davies, recreating lavish Mayfair parties doesn’t add much to what we already know.
I found the non-historical characters thin at best. Rupert is presented as a thoroughly decent chap, civil servant with some rather good ideas for world peace. Pamela Avenell steps straight out of light romantic fiction, and out of her underwear [black from Marshall and Snelgrove!]. She is neither interesting nor likeable. Only in Mary Brennan did I find some solidity and personality. She also gets the best lines and the best part of the plot.
Nicholson paints a country in decline, but again this is so familiar. He describes a loss of moral ground in a vacuous and shallow social elite. But again - not new. As nuclear war looms large, he tells us what “the end of the world” signifies to his cast. But again predictable and cliched.
There's nothing to get excited about here.