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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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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 2 January 2016
If, as many historians have claimed, the Victorian era didn't really end until the outbreak of the First World War, then those four years of bloodshed and conflict served as both the death-throes of one era and the birth pains of another: the modern world, our world, emerging from the bloody fields of Flanders. But it didn't come into being all in one go. There was a period of 'in-between', after the shattering noise of the war and the busy, jazzy jangle of the Roaring Twenties, there was two years of silence, of absence, of stillness and loss.

It is these two years, from the close of hostilities on 11th November 1918 to the unveiling of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on the same date in 1920, that form the subject of Juliet Nicolson's elegant and elegiac book. She takes a chronological approach, structured around the stages of grief - moving from first shock and denial of all those empty graves, to the anger and bargaining of the first months and years (where was the country fit for heroes promised?) to the final acceptance, symbolised most poignantly in Lutyen's Cenotaph and the Tomb in Westminster Abbey. She tells the story of grieving widows, demobbed soldiers, wounded survivors, fatherless children, helpless and useless politicians, some individuals awaking to life anew and others long-since dead inside.

This book is filled with personal accounts taken from letters, memoirs, speeches, news articles, diaries, supplemented by the poetry and fiction we are all so familiar with, all woven together with Nicholson's own beautifully written narrative. Given the subject matter, this book could very easily teeter into sentimentality and bathos, but Nicholson keeps it together with elegant simplicity, and the end result is an intensely moving account of a country slowly coming to terms with almost staggering loss.
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on 20 January 2014
This book set out to show how all sections of society were devastated by the war and how they tried to recover from it in the first two years after the war. It is a fascinating subject and I was expecting it to be a very interesting read.
Sadly it was slightly disappointing due to the disjointedness of the presentation of the material, sometimes I was confused as to when the author had finished one anecdote and moved on to another. It is presented chronologically and I think this may have contributed to the difficulties the author had in dealing with any subject in the slightest depth.
Some reviewers have commented unfavourably on the amount of material on the upper and middle classes compared with the lower classes. Whilst I agree that the material on Tom Mitford and Diana Cooper is fairly irrelevant, I think solely concentrating on the upper classes and how their secure world had been turned upside down would have provided enough material for a book in itself.
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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 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 10 May 2014
Delightfully written and well constructed yet full of fascinating facts. One of the best books to come out on WWI - perhaps because it concentrated on one aspect in particular and gave such a full and human description. I'd recommend it to anyone as it makes a thoroughly good read - the Great Silence reads like a novel. Well done Juliet Nicolson. I'd recommend this to anyone who wants to understand the effects of war and the reason for the various memorials that followed it. The one/two-minute silence on Armistice Day will now mean so much more after reading this book.
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on 12 July 2017
Due to be read soon, thanks
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on 27 January 2017
Perfect - as you would expect from Miss Nicholson.
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on 14 June 2017
Most enjoyable well written and informative Highly recommended
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on 5 November 2012
A short but sensitive look at people's experience of the aftermath of the Great War in Britian. The sense of loss comes over quite strongly as does the lasting damage to many people's mental health.
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