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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 March 2015
I must admit, I do love a bit of scandal! So when I saw 'Profumo' in the book's title, I ordered it! But if you read the title carefully, you will notice that it is not strictly a book about the Profumo affair which, of course, has been written about in great detail over recent decades. It is, rather, a book that explores the general cultural 'weather' of the times... in the prevailing attitudes regarding class, politicians, journalistic practices, marriage, the role of women, infidelity. So it is not really what I expected nor what I was looking for. I got disheartened and bogged down in the layers of detail and finally gave up on the book - something I rarely do. If you are looking for a comprehensive look at the culture of Britain in the early 1960s, you may find this book is perfect. If you are looking for yet a little more salacious gossip regarding the Profumo affair, you will be disappointed.
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on 13 July 2014
Truly boring. A re-hash of everything we have long known.
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on 11 August 2017
Fascinating . Well researched and well written
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on 16 January 2013
I had such high hopes for this book as the sample opening chapter you can read online is so promising, however I find it disappointing as the book goes on. Another critic on here said that there was too much nit picking information, I would have to agree. The main protagonists of the Profumo affair, Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, the most interesting parties merit barely a few paragraphs each. However, there are pages and pages on the likes of Bob Boothby and Harold MacMillan even down to what they ate for breakfast! Far too much tedious detail about the Government members of the day and their relatives and not enough about the main players. This book isn't really about the Profumo affair at all, it's all about the social mores of that era.
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on 15 March 2017
Excellent work covering a broad slice of social and political history. Answered many questions for me.
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on 29 August 2017
Brilliant !
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on 25 April 2014
Minutely detailed account of primate behaviours and relationships in the so-called ruling class. A Whitehall farce told with solemnity and earnestness.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 19 December 2012
Although I was born after 'The Profumo Affair' I have vague images of the characters involved and what happened, but knew very little detail. This wonderfully written book certainly filled any gaps in my knowledge, presenting a detailed and fascinating account of who was involved, what happened and painting a picture of an era when London was poised on the brink of change. Davenport-Hines (whose previous book Titanic Lives: Migrants and Millionaires, Conmen and Crew I enjoyed very much) divides this work into 'Cast' and 'Drama'. Indeed, the whole sorry affair reads something like a stage play, with a ruling class who felt they could do much as they liked, and a new group of men coming up behind them who did not subscribe to their unwritten public school ethos and revelled in making money.

Here, then, we are introduced to the people behind the names. John Profumo, the War Minister, who was married to film star Valerie Hobson. From the outside viewed as a golden couple, it was plain that Profumo had a roving eye from the earliest days of his marriage. Indeed, almost everyone we meet is affected by marital problems. From PM Harold Macmillan, whose wife Dorothy famously had a long running affair with Bob Boothby, to Bill Astor, who was on his third marriage by the time of the scandal which rocked London. The author cleverly unveils his cast, including osteopath Stephen Ward, whose list of rich and eminent patients included Churchill, Eden, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and Paul Getty, to Yevgeny Ivanov, whom he was introduced to at the Garrick Club, the 'Good Time Girls' Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, the new generation of property developers such as Charles Clore and Perec Rachman, the 'Hacks' and the 'Spies'. He intertwines these cast of characters, showing how the morals of the day affected events. Indeed, the subtitle "Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo" is an excellent one - as we are taken on fascinating digressions, from newspaper articles (serious then, hilarious now!) on how women should go about achieving marriage to attitudes on women automatically giving up, sometimes excellent careers, for the often tedious 'trap' that marriage and motherhood could become. This scene setting is important - not until you read how a jury (all male) at the time saw the brutal murder of a young wife who 'belittled' her husband, can you truly understand the way women were viewed at this time.

Having brilliantly arrayed his cast and set the scene, the author then takes us through the actual 'Drama' of what happened, the scandal and the aftermath. Macmillan's secretary thought the 'Profumo Affair' did the PM more harm than anything in the whole of his administration. In a country which was heavily divided, where women were viewed as seducers and men unable to resist their charms, scandal broke. It is hard to overestimate how much the scandal affected everyone involved, as the press had a field day and people pored over the salacious details which greeted them every day in the newspapers. This is an excellent account of a time and an event which is still in the public consciousness. Who doesn't know the names of Profumo and Keeler and have some image of who, and what, they were? Well, this book may change your views, but I doubt you will find a better account of what happened anywhere. The author also asks what substance there actually was amongst the gossip and inuendo and outlines what happened to the people involved afterwards. Of Keeler, he states with weary resignation that, "had she been born thirty five years later, she would have starred on 'Celebrity Big Brother' and consulted her publicist every time her footballer boyfriend knocked her about..." Thoroughly enjoyable, highly readable and well researched, this would make a fantastic book group read, with much to discuss and I recommend it highly. Lastly, I read the kindle version of this book and the illustrations were included.
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on 24 September 2013
Hated this book and didn't bother reading it more than halfway. Richard Davenport-Hines started in a witty manner and then descended into far too much detail about everything he mentioned. B O R I N G.
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on 23 February 2013
I was 21 when Stephen Ward came to court & committed "suicide" while in custody. I was working for Odhams Press in the Book Production Dept for two editors. One of whom was a patient/friend of Stephen Ward. I think this book gives a good background to the politics & social restrictions of the time. The editors bought pictures from Reuters, IPC & other picture agencies On a daily basis, We heard the gossip of Fleet St, so knew there was something afoot as the press could not contain their excitement! We were told that there others were involved but never names. My editor said that Stephen Ward had been coerced into suicide. I was the same age as Christine Keeler & felt the hypocrisy of the time damaged everything about her. I have enjoyed reading this book, the facts haven't changed as a previous reviewer pointed out but the background information helps you to understand why it was such a scandal. I don't suppose today it would be front page. Read it, it's a good yarn!
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