The enchanting and absorbing story of a remarkable season; defining a world on the cusp of irrevocable change
One summer of nearly a hundred years ago saw one of the high sunlit meadows of English history. A new king was crowned; audiences swarmed to Covent Garden to see the Ballet Russes and Nijinskys gravity-defying leaps. The aristocracy was at play, bounding from house party to the next; the socialite Lady Michelham travelled with her nineteen yards of pearls. Rupert Brooke (a 23-year-old poet in love with love, Keats, marrons glaces and truth) swam in the river at Grantchester. But perfection was over-reaching itself. The rumble of thunder from the summer's storms presaged not only the bloody war years ahead: the country was brought to near standstill by industrial strikes, and unrest exposed the chasm between privileged and poor; as if the heat was torturing those imprisoned in society's straitjacket and stifled by the city smog. Children, seeking relief from the scorching sun, drowned in village ponds. What the protagonists could not have known is that they were playing out the backdrop to WWI; in a few years time the world, let alone England, would never be the same again. Through the eyes of a series of exceptional individuals; a debutante, a suffragette, a politician, a trade unionist, a butler and the Queen; Juliet Nicolson illuminates a turning point in history. With the gifts of a great storyteller she rekindles a vision of a time when the sun shone but its shadows fell on all.
An accomplished and engaging piece of social history - Daily Telegraph
[Nicolson] sweeps across voices and classes to assemble a mosaic of sunlit impressions - Independent: Boyd Tonkin
Listed as number three of six in the 'Bookseller's Chart' by Phoebe Bentick of Henry Stokes & Co. - The Times
With the gifts of a great storyteller, [Nicolson] rekindles a vision of a time when the sun shone, but cast long shadows. - Waterstone's Books Quarterly
Nicolson on swimwear from Victorian times through Brigitte Bardot to today. - The Spectator
Juliet Nicolson has taken this "perfect summer" as the backdrop for an ambitious work of multiple biography, which sets the extravagance of the upper classes against the increasingly desperate lives of the poor. - Observer
I wanted to evoke the full vivid richness of how it smelt, looked, sounded, tasted and felt to be alive in England during the months of such a summer - The Lady
Juliet Nicolson does not pretend to offer a close political analysis, but rather a thoroughly entertaining portrait of the period, full of memorable detail - The Spectator
Juliet Nicolson is the author of two works of non fiction that bookend the First World War, The Perfect Summer and The Great Silence, as well as a novel, Abdication. She writes for the Daily Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday and the Evening Standard, among other publications. She read English at Oxford University and has worked in publishing in the UK and the US. She is married, has two daughters and lives in East Sussex.