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Great Silence Paperback – Aug 23 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Paperback, Aug 23 2010
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: McArthur & Co (Aug. 23 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155278889X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1552788899
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.7 x 20.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #868,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A small treasure-house of a book from a writer who understands the vital importance of small details." (The Guardian)

“A triumph of balance and organization... Nicolson writes with admirable pace and fluency...a study which comprehends the cultural and the intellectual, the political and the social, and weaves them all into a lively and convincing narrative.” (The Spectator)

“Nicolson has created a compelling impressionistic portrait of a country struggling to make sense of the sacrifices that had been made. Filled with anecdote and human detail, The Great Silence becomes a moving study of Britons finding ways, individually and collectively, to recover from the terrible wounds the war had inflicted.” (Sunday Times)

About the Author

Juliet Nicolson is the author of THE PERFECT SUMMER. She has written for the Daily Telegraph, Vogue, Evening Standard, The Spectator and The Guardian. She has two daughters and lives in Sussex and Kent at Sissinghurst.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I opened The Great Silence with great anticipation, looking forward to an entertaining interpretation of the effects of the Great War on British society. Volumes such as Paul Fussell's The Great War and the Modern Memory have proven that this topic can be endlessly fascinating and informative, and Juliet Nicolson certainly had the sources at her disposal to create an equally enjoyable account. But alas, the initial promise of the book made its failure that much more disappointing.
First of all, there is the issue of organization and theme. Nicolson's anecdotes of life after the war, interesting in themselves, are strung together one after the other, with rarely a chronological or thematic link to tie them together. The anecdotes are formed into chapters with vague and misleading titles which do not progress towards the distillation of any theme or thesis. By the end of the book, the reader is left with the sense of having heard a multitude of fascinating voices, but without the guiding hand of an editor to turn the cacophony into purposeful music.
Secondly, there is the issue of sources. Nicolson's material is undoubtedly drawn from a wide variety of sources, and her discussion of the artificial limb and facial reconstruction work after the war is a bright spot of thorough research and discussion. But in other instances, she neglects to provide any context for her information. She relates the tale of Diana Cooper's post-war adventures in great detail, but does not give any indication of how she fit into the broader spectrum of post-war upper-class society.
And finally, there is the question of style. Personally, I found Nicolson's writing to be difficult, her wording full of redundancies and her syntax convoluted. While this is purely a subjective aesthetic concern, it made this reader's experience that much less enjoyable.
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Format: Paperback
"The Great Silence: Britain from the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age," by Juliet Nicolson, covers just two years of British history, from the Armistice of 1918 to Armistice Day of 1920, but it packs a lot of history in that short period of time. About 1/3 of English men between the ages of 20 and 24 were killed or permanently wounded in World War I (which is not as high a percentage as France or Germany, but still), and the world that the survivors returned to was very different from the one they had left. There was scarcely a family in the United Kingdom that had not lost a son, father, brother, husband, and of those who did return, many suffered from what we now called post traumatic stress disorder, then known as "shell shock." There were new industries opened up by the war, including that of plastic surgery (because of the necessity for at least some kind of reconstruction of faces that had been blown apart), and Juliet Nicolson details these and other changes in the world of post-war England. She is the grand-daughter of Vita Sackville-West, a notable aristocrat of the Edwardian era, and so has access to documents and oral histories that others might not be able to attain, but she also chronicles the changes in the lives of the "lower classes" as well, of which there were many. Primarily, however, this book is about the grief of a nation and how it was, and was not, expressed in the collective culture. The famed British "stiff upper lip" resulted in a type of mourning that was silent and hidden, but the shock caused to the culture as a whole by the Great War was such that it couldn't just be ignored or denied, and Nicolson describes some of the ways in which it manifested over those first two years after the end of hostilities.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
There is so much in this book that is not told elsewhere. The terrible treatment of war veterans amazed me. There is a lot of prattle about high society but it is worth wading through to read about the soldiers. A "land fit for heroes" as propaganda had it was a land of neglect and ill treatment. Deserves to be in any colection of war books.
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By Jill Meyer HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on May 4 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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