Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Going from Summer to Shadows; REVIEW: BOOKS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Going from Summer to Shadows; REVIEW: BOOKS

Article excerpt

Byline: RACHEL BILLINGTON

The Perfect Summer: Dancing into Shadow in 1911

by Juliet Nicolson

(John Murray, [pounds sterling]20)

IT IS MAY, 1911. Queen Mary, mother of six children and inhabitant of Buckingham Palace with its 200,000 light bulbs, dreads her husband's coronation and the five-day visit from his brother-in-law, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.

Once these events are over, perhaps the French will stop calling attention to her ample bosom with the nickname Soutien Georges after the new brassiere, the soutien-gorge.

Perhaps she'll be allowed to return to quietly arranging her porcelain collection.

Winston Churchill, at 36 the youngest Home Secretary since Robert Peel, and his wife, Clemmie, are expecting their second baby. He has enough energy left over from problems such as the Parliament Act, Home Rule and dockworkers' strikes to found The Other Club with his closest friend and political opponent, the Conservative MP and lawyer, FE Smith. The club meets at the Savoy Hotel. He points out to Violet Asquith that "We are all worms, but I do believe I am a glow worm."

Eric Horn knows he is a topclass butler, despite being only 5ft 9in - footmen at Blenheim wouldn't be interviewed under 6ft. In his view: "A servant must be absolutely perfect in form, disposition and action."

However, as a proficient violinist, he takes exception to the habit of the aristocracy, when moving North, to require bagpipers playing at all hours.

His most sympathetic employer is an Indian prince who unfortunately returns home for the Delhi Durbar.

Juliet Nicolson has plucked out five months from British history. It is three years before The Great War and one of the continuously hottest summers on record. Without a dictatorial hand, history has a way of slumping into a shapeless mass. But Nicolson is aiming for a lighter touch.

Her narrow time-scale means she can concentrate on individual portraits to breathe life into a wider world. …

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