The Perfect Summer | Juliet Nicolson
The Perfect Summer chronicles a glorious English summer a century ago when the world was on the cusp of irrevocable change. That summer of 1911 a new king was crowned and the aristocracy was at play, bounding from one house party to the next. To a charity ball where the other girls came dressed as virginal white swans, the striking debutante Lady Diana Manners made a late appearance as a black swan. The Ballets Russes arrived in London for the first time and people swarmed to Covent Garden to see Nijinsky’s gravity-defying leaps.
Through the tight lens of four months, Juliet Nicolson’s rich storytelling gifts rivet us with the sights, colors, and feelings of a bygone era. But perfection was not for all. Cracks in the social fabric were showing: The country was brought to a standstill by industrial strikes. Led by the charismatic Ben Tillett, the Southampton Dockers’ Union paralyzed shipping in the south. Organizer Mary Macarthur inspired women from the “sweated industries” to take to the streets in protest of intolerable conditions. Home Secretary Winston Churchill, fearing that the country was on the verge of collapse, gave in to demands for wage increases. Temperatures rose steadily to more than 100 degrees; by August deaths from heatstroke were too many for newspapers to report.
Drawing on material from intimate and rarely seen sources and narrated through the eyes of a series of exceptional individuals—among them a debutante, a choirboy, a politician, a trade unionist, a butler, and the queen—The Perfect Summer is a vividly rendered glimpse of the twilight of the Edwardian era.