This is a wonderful book and a real delight for anyone interested in the 1930s, and the English artistic and literary scene of that era. Alec Waugh has a warm and chatty style, and it's no wonder that he was able to make friends easily and that many of these friendships were lifelong.
Alec Waugh wrote this book in the mid 1970s, towards the end of his life, and it is about the year he would most like to be able to live again - 1931. Looking back Alex decided that 1930 marked the end of the post-war period. 1932 marked the start of the pre-war period and 1931 was a no man's land. Despite describing it as a no man's land, it is clear that it was a remarkable year for Alec: a splendid mix of parties, love affairs, flirtations, travel, political upheaval and intrigue, time spent with his family, and so on. During the year Alec lived in New York, London, Villefranche (in the South of France), and writes in numerous homes and hotels including Easton Court Hotel, Chagford in Devon, which was run by the American Mrs Caroline Cobb, and her partner, Norman Webb, and where Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited. It was home to Patrick Balfour and numerous bohemian types in the 1930s and 1940s. It was also a year of firsts: Alec's first transatlantic telephone call; the year he became a member of the MCC; and Alec's first Royal garden party.
This charming memoir beautifully captures a bygone age and one that I find endlessly fascinating. I had to keep putting the book down as yet another notable individual entered Alec's life to find out more about each new personality. Some I knew well, for example his brother Evelyn, and W Somerset Maugham, however the majority were new to me, and have inspired me to investigate some new literary names from the era (for example C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Theodora Benson and Betty Askwith, Sylvia Thompson, and Carl Van Vechten). It was not just writers that Alec describes, there's also friends, publishers, hoteliers and many more, all of whom made 1931 such a perfect year for him.