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Books  >>  History

David Kynaston

Family Britain, 1951-1957

David Kynaston Family Britain 1951 1957
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Family Britain continues David Kynaston’s groundbreaking series, telling as never before the story of Britain from VE Day in 1945 to the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

As in his highly acclaimed Austerity Britain, David Kynaston invokes an astonishing array of vivid, intimate and unselfconscious voices to drive his narrative of 1950s Britain. The keen-eyed Nella Last shops assiduously at Barrow Market as rationing gradually gives way to relative abundance; housewife Judy Haines, relishing the detail of suburban life, brings up her children in Chingford; the self-absorbed civil servant Henry St John perfects the art of grumbling. Well-known figures are encountered on the way, such as Doris Lessing (joining and later leaving the Communist Party), John Arlott (sticking up on Any Questions? for the rights of homosexuals), and comic-strip hero Roy of the Rovers (making his goal-scoring debut for Melchester).

In this colorful, unfolding tapestry, great national events—the Tories’ return to power, the death of George VI , the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, the Suez Crisis—jostle alongside everything that gave Britain in the 1950s its distinctive flavor: Butlin’s holiday camps, Hancock’s Half-Hour, Ekco television sets, Davy Crockett, skiffle, and teddy boys. Deeply researched, David Kynaston’s Family Britain offers an unrivaled take on British society as it started to move away from the painful hardships of the 1940s toward domestic ease and affluence.

“Kyanston has again written a masterpiece. More vividly and profoundly than any other historical work I’ve read, [Family Britain] captures the rhythms and texture of everyday life and the collective experience of a nation.”—Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly

""Weaving together diaries, newspapers, polls, and other primary sources, Kynaston maps the fine grain of daily life.”—New Yorker

“Memories, myths, half-true recollection, fantasy: this is the difficult and exciting territory of social history. David Kynaston’s massive projected history of postwar Britain from 1945 to 1979 is titled Tales of a New Jerusalem, echoing William Blake…Kynaston tells the story of people’s lives during this time by compiling a range of contemporary voices from varied backgrounds and applying an historian’s retrospective structure and gentle analysis. He gathers material from private and archived diaries and from novels and memoirs by professional writers, biographers, and others whose lives publishers deemed worth recording…Kynaston deals with the totality of social life in his book.”—Jenny Diski, Harper’s Magazine

“I have decided to vent my spleen by embarking on a series of books that, I hope, will be of no interest whatsoever to the readership of this magazine. David Kynaston’s superlative Austerity Britain is more than six hundred pages long and deals with just six years, 1945–51, in the life of my country. The second volume in the series, Family Britain, 1951–57, has already been published, so I plan to move on to that next; Kynaston is going to take us through to Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979, and I’m warning you now that I plan to read every single word, and write about them in great detail in this column.”—Nick Hornby, The Believer

“With the previous volume, this is sure to be a staple in the British history genre. It will resonate most with serious Anglophiles and with a scholarly audience … could serve as an excellent source in all academic library British history collections.”Library Journal

“As Kynaston juggles a staggering number of sources, he gives us an audaciously intimate, rich, and atmospheric history that is so real, you can just about taste it.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Robustly researched and engagingly written with a light wit, this selection will leave readers looking forward to future installments on the Macmillan years and beyond.”—Booklist

“Captures the stolid, charmingly evolving open spirit of the British people.”—Kirkus Reviews


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