Synopses & Reviews
A majestic peoples history of England in the years immediately following the end of World War II, and a surprise bestseller in the UK.
As much as any country, England bore the brunt of Germanys aggression in World War II , and was ravaged in many ways at the wars end. Celebrated historian David Kynaston has written an utterly original, compellingly readable account of the following six years, during which the country indomitably rebuilt itself. Kynastons great genius is to chronicle Englands experience from bottom to top: coursing through the book, therefore, is an astonishing variety of ordinary, contemporary voices, eloquently and passionately displaying the countrys remarkable spirit even as they were unaware of what the future would hold. Together they present a fascinating portrait of the English people at a climactic point in history, and Kynaston skillfully links their stories to the bigger, headline-making events of the time. Their stories also jostle alongside those of more well-known figures like celebrated journalist-to-be Jon Arlott (making his first radio broadcast), actress Glenda Jackson, and writer Doris Lessing, newly arrived from Africa and struck by the leveling poverty of postwar Britain. Austerity Britain gives new meaning to the hardship and heroism experienced by England in the face of Germanys assaults.
"Kynaston (author of the four-volume The City of London) has produced an extraordinary panorama of Britain as it emerged from the tumult of war with a broken empire, a bankrupt economy and an ostensibly socialist government. Britain between 1945 and 1951 is an alien place. No washing machines, no highways, no supermarkets. Everything was heavy, from coins and suitcases to coats and shoes. Everything edible was rationed: tea, meat, butter, cheese, jam, eggs, candy. The awfulness of 1939 1945 still lingered, and 'any conversation tended to drift toward the war, like an animal licking a sore place.' Yet, people assumed 'Britain was still best: that was so deeply part of how citizens thought, it was taken for granted.' By combining astute political analysis with illustrative anecdotes brilliantly chosen from contemporary newspapers, popular culture and memoirs, Kynaston succeeds in recreating the lost world of austerity. The volume represents social history at its finest, and readers may look forward to its promised sequels taking the story of Britain up to 1979 and the election of Margaret Thatcher. 20 b&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[T]his sparkling book deeply and imaginatively researched, written with bounce, and informed by the wryest sensibility charts the evolution of British society during the depleted and dingy years 1945-1951." Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly
(read the entire Atlantic Monthly review
About the Author
David Kynaston was widely acclaimed for his four-volume history The City of London. He is currently a visiting professor at Kingston University in England.