Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Perfect Summer 1911 Juliet Nicolson


Image from a Corner in Wheat, D. W. Griffith, 1912
I just got the books "The Great Silence" and "The Perfect Summer" both by Juliet Nicolson in the post (I'm talking like a Brit now:)
Pretty pastel volumes which I could not wait to start reading.
Well, I've just read the first chapter of The Perfect Summer, 1911, and WOW it covers exactly the same territory as Tighsolas, except from the point of view of the rich and famous or soon to become famous. (And it has wonderful speeding prose, to illustrate the time it is talking about. Like the first chapter of A Tale of Two Cities.)
And on the back cover, it is stated outright, that 1911 was a pivotal year in Western History. (In the second chapter, Nicolson relates that Winston Churchill wrote in a 1911 entry in his diary "Al the world is changing at once."

I'm pleased, because I am not an historian, and I had little background in history, when I stumbled upon the Nicholson letters (belonging to my husband's grandmother and great grandmother and father and written mostly in 1908 to 1913) and even though the Nicholsons were in no way famous, just middle class semi-rural Canadians of Scots origin, I realized that these letters were important, that there was something going on in the background. This was in 2004, three years before Juliet Nicolson (a grand daughter of Vita Sackville West and likely an Isle of Lewiser too, like my Nicholsons (who were once Nicolsons)...published her book The Perfect Summer. I posted the first version of Tighsolas in 2005 after educating myself about the era.
This book, The Perfect Summer, I can already tell, is a perfect complement to Tighsolas (http://www.tigholas.ca/) and when I get my novel Flo in the City written (based on the life of Flora Nicholson of Tighsolas) that book will serve as a perfect complement.
Funny thing. I have a diary belonging to another Great Aunt of my husband's, Elizabeth Fair. Elizabeth was Douglas MacArthur's first cousin and the daughter of a properous family in the South, Virginia, the Hardy's. She went to Europe in 1911, London, Wales, Paris and kept a diary.
This diary proves that if you are an 'airhead middling socialite' and she pretty well was (sorry to state fact) than even if you are 'in the right place at the right time" you miss everything. All she writes is about shopping and meeting other people of her class who all are "lovely." Not ONE interesting item in the entire diary. And according to Nicolson, it was a wild summer in London. Well, my husband's great aunt does witness a suffrage parade in London. Yes, , most diaries are dull and boring, but this one takes the cake. Considering where she was and when.
Oh, there is one scene of interest, she meets a man from back home in Virginia, who is coming out of the Venus de Milo room in the Louvre. Seems an odd coincidence. And if this were in a movie, like Room with a View, the scene would have significance. As it was, Elizabeth married a Montreal banker and lived in the luxurious Linton Apartments on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal until her death. She had no children, and left no money at her death, having spent it all on, well, not much.