Also By This Author
“Sharp and rangy…. Nicolson sets a lively, theatrical pace and makes good use of recurring characters…. [There are] many glittering pieces in Nicolson’s book.”
Thomas Mallon, New York Times Book Review
The Perfect Summer
England 1911, Just Before the Storm
978-0-8021-4367-9 • $15.00 • Paperback • May 2008
Topping the best-seller charts in Britain and published to much acclaim in the United States, The Perfect Summer chronicles a glorious English summer a century ago when the world was on the cusp of irrevocable change. That summer of 1911 a new king was crowned and the aristocracy was at play, bounding from one house party to the next. To a charity ball where the other girls came dressed as virginal white swans, the striking debutante Lady Diana Manners made a late appearance as a black swan. The Ballets Russes arrived in London for the first time and people swarmed to Covent Garden to see Nijinsky’s gravity-defying leaps.
Through the tight lens of four months, Juliet Nicolson’s rich storytelling gifts rivet us with the sights, colors, and feelings of a bygone era. But perfection was not for all. Cracks in the social fabric were showing: The country was brought to a standstill by industrial strikes. Led by the charismatic Ben Tillett, the Southampton Dockers’ Union paralyzed shipping in the south. Organizer Mary Macarthur inspired women from the “sweated industries” to take to the streets in protest of intolerable conditions. Home Secretary Winston Churchill, fearing that the country was on the verge of collapse, gave in to demands for wage increases. Temperatures rose steadily to more than 100 degrees; by August deaths from heatstroke were too many for newspapers to report.
Drawing on material from intimate and rarely seen sources and narrated through the eyes of a series of exceptional individualsamong them a debutante, a choirboy, a politician, a trade unionist, a butler, and the queenThe Perfect Summer is a vividly rendered glimpse of the twilight of the Edwardian era.