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The Perfect Summer


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The granddaughter of writer Vita Sackville-West, Nicolson offers an engaging story covering just four summer months in 1911. English society was living large; there seemed no end to its extravagances. Meanwhile-and as always-the lower classes struggled, and the war loomed. Nicolson concentrates on specific persons representing different social strata and adds a great deal of humor to describe some of the period's eccentricities. Among the figures she includes are Winston Churchill (then home secretary), the scandalous Lady Diana Manners, and Queen Mary. Nicolson had access to many primary sources, some never before seen by the public. In a satisfying epilog, she tracks the fates of the personalities on whom she focuses. A best seller in Britain (and deservedly so), this quick, enjoyable read shows the inevitability of the decline of the aristocracy by blending serious history, quirky details, and an all-encompassing portrait of English society. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/07.]-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Memorial Lib., Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

The granddaughter of Bloomsbury notables Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson chronicles the minutiae of the hot, sunny summer of 1911, when the rich crammed in a succession of parties as industrial strikes almost brought the country to a standstill, and WWI loomed on the horizon. Under Nicolson's lavish attentions, "upstairs" and "downstairs," the weighty and frivolous spring to vivid life. While Mary approached her upcoming coronation as queen with dread, Leonard Woolf fell in love with his Cambridge pal's sister, the budding novelist Virginia Stephen. The bewitching marchioness of Ripon arranged for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes to perform at Covent Garden, and the Times revealed that certain servants were selling juicy tidbits about their aristocratic employers to American newspapers. Trade unionist Mary Macarthur's fight for women's rights meshes artfully with racy novelist Elinor Glyn's adulterous affair with ambivalent lover Lord Curzon. Lady Diana Manners's tart observations of her debutante season segue to a rendezvous between a footman and a kitchen maid. Drawing on a wide variety of primary sources-from Churchill's memoirs to the tell-all What the Butler Winked At-journalist Nicolson's debut, a British bestseller, serves up a delightfully gossipy yet substantial slice of social history. Photos not seen by PW. (June) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"A hugely interesting portrait of a society teetering on a precipice both nationally and internationally . . . As page turning as a novel." -- Joanna Trollope
"Detail makes Juliet Nicolson's portrait of a single Edwardian year such a fascinating read. . . . I felt transported into what Nicolson felicitously describes as 'one of the high sunilt meadows of English history.'" -- Antonia Fraser
"Buried deep within this deliciously evocative book, there is a single story that involves a grand country house and a lord, a man, not his wife, a cry of celebratory sexuality. This story alone makes the volume's purchase price worthwhile. And there are hundreds more like it. Juliet Nicolson has fashioned for us a treasure-trove, doubly perfect for winter." -- Simon Winchester
"A wonderfully evocative portrait of English society on the brink of a changing world. Juliet Nicolson has invented a new kind of social history." -- Tina Brown
"Juliet Nicolson transports us back to the enchanted and enchanting summer of 1911. She guides us through its four months in company with some of the most delightful people imaginable. It is a wonderful and poignant tour that proved to be a farewell appearance to their world." -- David Fromkin

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