The Long Week-End

The Long Week-end: A Social History of Great Britain 1918-1939
Robert Graves and Alan Hodge

I bought this book during one of our visits to London, specifically the trip where I had one of the Worst Colds Known to Man. The idea of the book was that it would keep me occupied on the long, cranky flight home. It took me four years to finish, but in the end was well worthwhile.

 The authors recap these two decades by category (“domestic life,” “reading matter,” and so on) and gloss very briefly on a great many things. They finished the book in 1940, so it ends with the outbreak of war, giving a modern reader the strange feeling that suddenly you know more about history than the authors do.

The authors’ research method is unclear, although a great deal of the events of the time must have been gleaned from newspapers. Of course histories are being written all the time, but the sheer number of media outlets, footage, and commentary being generated on any given day would make such a project very challenging today.

For me, the anecdotal patchwork approach didn’t wholly succeed, and I think I found myself yearning for a narrative thread at some point. This may be why it took me four years to finish the book, and why, even when I had made up my mind to finish it, I had some severe lapses in attention. Only in the last chapters, with the war brewing up, do we get a sense of the story to come.

Graves was a well-known poet and the author of Goodbye to All That, which is briefly mentioned in this book. He and Hodges also wrote The Reader Over Your Shoulder, tips from which are excerpted here.

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So much to read, so little time