The Perfect Summer: Dancing Into Shadow in 1911
“I have been born at the end of the age of peace and can’t expect to feel anything but despair,” E.M. Forster wrote, eulogizing the sunlit English idyll shattered by the First World War. This delightful book, written by a latter day descendant of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West, renders in exquisite detail the long, unseasonably warm summer of 1911, the zenith of English Arcadia, before the storm clouds moved in. This was the summer when the Ballet Russe, starring Vaslav Nijinksy, had their celebrated London debut, when Lloyd George pushed through the National Insurance Act, and when Leonard Woolf first fell in love with Virginia Stephen. The author illuminates the lives of all social classes: royalty and union leaders; debutantes and butlers; the Bloomsbury intelligentsia and flame-haired Elinor Glyn whose novel Three Weeks, which waxed rhapsodic over the joys of making love on a tiger skin rug, became a runaway bestseller. Juliet Nicolson’s enthusiasm about her subject matter is infectious. An exuberant book about an exuberant—and fleeting—era. Warmly recommended.