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"The Great Silence" Juliet Nicolson

The Great Silence - Juliet Nicolson

I had high hopes for this book, and was looking forward to finding out more about the two years immediately after the end of World War 1 which presaged a period of enormous social change. The book takes a chronological approach, and gives almost every chapter a one word title (e.g. Wound, Hopelessness, Yearning, Resignation etc.). 

For every interesting piece of information (e.g. the tragedy of the Scottish soldiers returning to the Isle of Lewis, the Spanish flu epidemic, or the development of reconstructive surgery), there seemed to be coverage of less relevant issues (Lady Diana Cooper's addiction to cocaine and morphine, Lady Ottoline Morrell having an affair with a younger stonemason, Tom Mitford's dietary choices, or the King's uncertainty about a two minute silence). 

I wonder if the immediate two year period following the war was an insufficient timeframe to understand the social impact of WW1. Certainly I found The Long Week-end: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39 by Robert Graves, and The Age of Illusion: England in the Twenties and Thirties, 1919-1940 byRonald Blythe, which cover the longer period between World War One and World War Two, to be far more interesting and satisfying to read. 

Overall I thought there was far too much emphasis on the aristocracy and, whilst a quick and easy read, ultimately it felt superficial, incoherent and a missed opportunity. It frequently read more like an upper class gossip column than a serious social history. Very disappointing.