The Great Silence

Richard Shone has told me a great deal about art, artists, ballet and ballet dancers in England in the years immediately following the First World War. Both Andrew Peppitt and Helen Marchant have been their wonderfully helpful selves ...

The Great Silence

The Great Silence

This account of British life in the wake of World War I is “social history at its very best . . . insightful and utterly absorbing” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune). As the euphoria of Armistice Day in 1918 quickly subsided, there was no denying the carnage that the Great War had left in its wake. Grief and shock overwhelmed the psyche of the British people—but from their despair, new life would slowly emerge. For veterans with faces demolished in the trenches, surgeon Harold Gillies brings hope with his miraculous skin-grafting procedure. Women win the vote, skirt hems leap, and Brits forget their troubles at packed dance halls. And two years later, the remains of a nameless combatant would be laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey, as “The Great Silence,” observed in memory of the countless dead, halted citizens in silent reverence. This history of two transformative years in the life of a nation features countless characters, from an aging butler to a pair of newlyweds, from the Prince of Wales to T.E. Lawrence, the real-life Lawrence of Arabia. The Great Silence depicts a nation fighting the forces that threaten to tear it apart and discovering the common bonds that hold it together. “A pearl of anecdotal history, The Great Silence is a satisfying companion to major studies of World War I and its aftermath . . . as Nicolson proceeds through the familiar stages of grief—denial, anger and acceptance—she gives you a deeper understanding of not only this brief period, but also how war’s sacrifices don’t end after the fighting stops.” —The Seattle Times “It may make you cry.” —The Boston Globe

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