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Customer Review

on 24 July 2013
David Kynaston has set himself the task of writing a new micro History of Britain-Tales of a New Jerusalem in volumes from 1945 to 1979 or possibly now? The first two doorstep size books (Austerity Britain & Family Britain) both covered periods of five and six years respectively and were marketed as double volume editions each consisting of two books. So far so eccentric but they did offer good value in the expensive hardback market and were beautifully constructed. Modernity Britain was originally advertised on websites such as Amazon and Goodreads as a book covering the years 1957-1962 with a similar length and double volume format. At some point Bloomsbury seem to have lost their nerve and the resultant book is a mere 300 plus pages covering only a two year period from 1957-59 but pretty much for the same price as previous more weighty volumes. So what has happened, considering initial adverts showed a longer book. Has Kynaston simply not finished writing it? Or has Bloomsbury decided to cash-in on the success of the earlier books rushing the unfinished hardback into the shops? Waffle about launching in a variety of formats/platforms is obfuscation. This is effectively half a book and seems to constrain Kynaston's fluent and anecdotal style. A weak start, seemingly random with a quote from Enoch Powell on housing doesn't bode well and in truth Kynaston seems both less confident and less assured in this volume sometimes launching on lists (oddly punctuated with brackets and little clear linking or point) and less memorable anecdotes and coverage. The joy of previous volumes was the drip drip effect of diarists and stories that was possible in a long book. This is both less possible and less evident in this volume. Still, there are good sections on Racism and Education in the period covered and some successful elegies as Kynaston gets into his stride.
A pity then that something has gone awry and Bloomsbury have decided to put profit before quality. This is still a good read (though less fluent and less confident) but undercuts the achievement of previous volumes by being half a book. Ironically, in this new age of austerity one might expect publishers to make more effort to provide consistent value for money. Readers enjoy but beware before you buy this anorexic volume- half a book isn't always better than the whole story.
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