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British Summer Time Begins: The School Summer Holidays 1930-1980

Ysenda Maxtone Graham

4 Reviews

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From the author of the beloved Terms & Conditions, British Summer Time Begins is a delightful, nostalgic and joyous celebration of summer holidays, told in Maxtone Graham's signature hilarious style.

British Summer Time Begins is about summer holidays of the mid-twentieth century and how they were spent, as recounted to Ysenda Maxtone-Graham in vividly remembered detail by people who were there. Through this prism, it paints a revealing portrait of twentieth-century Britain in summertime: how we were, how families functioned, what houses and gardens and streets were like, what journeys were like, and what people did all day in their free time. It explores their expectations, hopes, fears and habits, the rules or lack of rules under which they lived, their happiness and sadness, their sense of being treasured or neglected - all within living memory, from pre-war summers to the late 1970s.

Ysenda takes us back to the long stretch of time from the last days of June till the early days of September - those months when the term-time self was cast off and you could become the person you really were, and you had (if you were lucky) enough hours in the endless succession of days to become good at the things that would later define your adulthood.

The 'showpiece' part of the summer holidays was 'the summer holiday', when families took off to the seaside, or to grandparents' houses teeming with cousins, or on early package holidays to France or Spain, siblings wedged into the back of small cars, roof-racks clattering, mothers preparing picnics. British Summer Time Begins is as much about the long weeks either side of that holiday as the trip itself: the weeks when nothing much officially happened, boredom often lurked nearby, and you vanished for hours on end, nobody much knowing or even caring where you were. Could it be that those unscheduled days were actually the most important and formative of your life?

From the author of the beloved Terms & Conditions, British Summer Time Begins is a delightful, nostalgic and joyous celebration of summers.

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Praise for British Summer Time Begins: The School Summer Holidays 1930-1980

  • [A] joyously addictive history of British summer holidays . . . Maxtone Graham is a wonderfully spry and eloquent writer . . . she has a fine ear for others' words - and a high sense of comedy - Observer

  • I defy anyone who lived in it not to be irresistibly transported back to their eight-year-old self, reliving the wild, eccentric, poor-yet-rich fun of pre-internet, pre-neurotic-parented childhood. This is a joyous book, one to make you smile in recognition, yearn to talk to your best pals from the time and wish to record your own memories - The Times

  • This splendid book rings bells galore . . . with her beady eye, Maxtone Graham keeps things tight and purposeful. The sweet aroma of nostalgia is never far away . . . this perfect little book serves as both a celebration, and a lament - Mail on Sunday

  • British Summer Time Begins is shot through with brilliant phrases and vignettes that have nothing and everything to do with the subject at hand . . . I wonder whether Maxtone Graham has founded a new school of historical writing - London Review of Books

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Ysenda Maxtone Graham

Ysenda Maxtone Graham was born in 1962 and educated at The King's School, Canterbury and Girton College, Cambridge. She has written widely for many newspapers and magazines, as features writer, book reviewer and columnist. She is the author of The Church Hesitant: A Portrait of the Church of England; The Real Mrs Miniver, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography of the Year Award; and Mr Tibbits's Catholic School. She lives in London with her husband and their three sons.

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