In the early 1970s, Britain seemed to be tottering on the brink of the abyss. Under Edward Heath, the optimism of the '60s had become a distant memory. Now the headlines were dominated by strikes and blackouts, unemployment and inflation. As the world looked on in horrified fascination, Britain seemed to be tearing itself apart. And yet, amid the gloom, glittered a creativity and cultural dynamism that would influence our lives long after the nightmarish '70s had been forgotten.
Dominic Sandbrook has recreated the gaudy, schizophrenic atmosphere of the early '70s: the world of Enoch Powell and Tony Benn, David Bowie and Brian Clough, Germaine Greer and Mary Whitehouse. An age when the unions were on the march and the socialist revolution seemed at hand, but also when feminism, permissiveness, pornography and environmentalism were transforming the lives of millions. It was an age of miners’ strikes, tower blocks, and IRA atrocities, but it also gave us celebrity footballers and high-street curry houses, organic foods and package holidays, gay rights and glam rock. For those who remember the days when you could buy a new colour television but power cuts stopped you from watching it, this book could hardly be more vivid. It is the perfect guide to a luridly colourful '70s landscape that shaped our present from the financial boardroom to the suburban bedroom.
In Seasons in the Sun, Dominic Sandbrook explores the bitter, turbulent world of Britain in the late 1970s, the years that brought punk to prominence and Margaret Thatcher to power. With inflation mounting, rubbish in the streets, bombs going off across London, and the economy in meltdown, the days of national greatness seemed a fading memory. Across the Western world, Britain was mocked as the "Sick Man of Europe", a byword for decline and self-destruction. In 1976 alone, race riots disrupted the Notting Hill Carnival, the retirement of Prime Minister Harold Wilson was overshadowed by allegations of corruption, the Sex Pistols made their shocking debut on national television, and Britain had to go cap in hand to the IMF.
Yet as Seasons in the Sun shows, there was more to late 1970s Britain than strikes and shortages. From rock music and television sitcoms to the novels of Martin Amis and the birth of the first home computers, this was a society caught between old and new: nostalgic for what had been lost, but already looking forward to a new and very different political and social order.
©2012 Dominic Sandbrook (P)2012 Audible Ltd
Ok so this is a fairly narrowly focused book, so unless you have an interest in British social and political history it may not appeal to you. That being said it's easily one of the best non fiction books I've ever read/ listened to. The pacing and detail level is perfect, and what should be a fairly dry subject is brought to life with a journalistic style reminiscent of Bill Bryson or Michael Lewis. As someone who was a small child in Britain during this period the book had incredible resonance with me. What was a real education for me was how close we came to economic and social collapse. I was much too young to understand at the time what the power outages and strikes meant but the books thorough explanation of the politcal climate at the time has given me a much deeper understanding of the forces that shaped the Britain i grew up in.
The best part for me was the clear explanation of the political intrigues of the time, from the bitter infighting and decline of a fractured, militant Labor Party to the passing of the old guard conservatives that allowed the seeds of Thatcherite monetrism to grow from the ashes of the IMF bailout and winter of discontent.
David Thorpe's performance is a tour de force, the narration on its own is clear, precise and a joy to listen to however what makes this book stand out from anything I've heard before is the voices of the celebrities and political figures of the time. The impressions are so accurate i was easily able to visualize the people being represented speaking the words as if i was a child watching them on the news in the late 70s and early 80s. Unless you know of, and have heard the people involved speaking you just can't appreciate how accurate his impressions are. If you listen to the book and don't know who some of the politicians are i would challenge you to find clips of them and compare. I hope there will be more in this series and that David Thorpe will read them. I couldn't imagine a better narrator for this book.
"Brilliant book, superbly narrated"
This book covers five years in Britain's history, but what a five years they were! I was born towards the end of the period and so cannot remember it, but this book certainly brought the latter half of the 1970s to life. Yes it covers politics at the top - Harold Wilson's return to power in 1974 having defeated Ted Heath, his shock resignation and replacement as PM by Jim Callaghan, and the 1979 General Election in which Thatcher began her lengthy tenure in Number 10. It also covers other political issues such as the Europe referendum, Scottish and Welsh referenda and Jeremy Thorpe's trial. Of course, trade union activism forms much of the backdrop, and the Winter of Discontent is something of a grand finale before the Labour government eventually falls in a vote of confidence.
But it's not all about the politics, though this was an unusually intense political period. Also making an appearance are the music of the time, Scotland's campaign in football's World Cup, TV programmes of the day and contemporary literature. Sandbrook does an excellent job of weaving these together with the political aspects to give a thoroughly enjoyable narrative of the era.
The narration really is excellent. Most of the characters are very well mimicked - Jim Callaghan, Harold Wilson, Teddy Taylor and the like are very well done indeed. Thatcher isn't quite right, but it's a minor quibble and does not distract from the overall effect.
I have listened to dozens of audiobooks and may well rate this the best I have ever enjoyed. Certainly giving it 5 stars was an automatic choice, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Well done to the author and narrator alike.
"Seventies in detail"
Both those who lived through these years and those born afterward will find this account illuminating and enjoyable.Over forty hours for five years may seem indulgent, but the detail this allows is fascinating and held my attention throughout. DominicSandbrook gives vivid ,shrewd accounts of major and minor characters and provides excellent description and analysis of such topics as the rise of punk, the role of the unions,the Thorpe murder trial,the winter of discontent etc. David Thorpe reads the long text superbly with unflagging enthusiasm and his successful mimicry of a very wide range of voices often gives a dramatic quality to the narrative. It would be excellent if he were to read the earlier volumes of Sandbrook's history :
"A Recent History Written With Humour and Fairness"
I don't remember history books making me laugh. At least not with the regularity of Sandbrook's latest addition to his history of the 1970's. And there are some genuinely funny episodes here such as the nascent plot to "dispose" of Harold Wilson's mistress. I know how wrong that sounds, but trust me, Sandbrook handles this with great humour and insight. These years 1974-79 also cover the winter of discontent and equally draws conclusions on Callaghan's government and the rise of Thatcherism that are intelligent and sympathetic both to Callaghan and the poorly paid public sector workers who were striving to keep their heads afloat in the teeth of a disabling run of inflation. What is truly wonderful about this book is that despite, or more likely because of all this upheaval, life goes on all around and it is a form of nostalgic delight to hear of telly dramas, pop music, teen surveys, and that side of history that so often gets ignored, the lives of ordinary people. A book to be heard over and over.
historical detail is phenomenal
Never had it so good by the same author
Harold Wilson's secretary going into melt down
the Socialist seventies
after reading this I wasn't surprised Margaret Thatcher got into Downing Street in 1979-at the time I was a fan of the Wilson government!
"A brilliant social history"
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A comprehensive social history which really brought the period to life. The narrator was excellent and kept a good pace which carried you along. It is a long book - and some chapters kept my interest more than others - but it's worth sticking with it.
It was one of the source books for This House - a play currently showing at National Theatre - that is worth seeing too!
"Revealing story of how the UK nearly collapsed."
A detailed political and social narrative of one of the most turbulent periods in British political history. Fascinating for those of us who were students in the 1970s and can now see what was actually going on.
Harold Wilson's resignation.
State of Emergency - the prequel. Both equally interesting and very well read in the characters' 'voices'.
"Really brings the 74-79 period to life"
Excellent narration, including very passable imitations of the late 1970s main protagonists such as Thatcher and Callaghan. The writing is first rate. He covers politics of course, but also the major trends in music, film, drama and so on.
Its a huge book - 40 hours in total, so also excellent value for money.
No. However I will on the basis on this.
"Excellent book with a great narrator"
Detailed and absorbing book about a fascinating period in British history. David Thorpe's narration really brings the book alive.
"Political history that didn't send me to sleep."
Good mix of political analysis and recollections of current events
The other books in the series. Same approach.
I was a mature adult throughout the period covered and, as well as being affected by the general political, social, economic and cultural situation, I was tangentially involved in some of the events covered. Sometimes I was perhaps too close to these events to fully understand what was their broader significance. Now I can say 'Ah, so that was what it was really all about'.
"turning the 70's into an epic"
I grew up in the 70's and so could relate to many of the stories that I could only vaguely remember. DT's reading is sensational. The enthusiasm that he imparts and his artful mimicry of the leading lights of the era raise the book to often great heights.
The book is enormously long and I thought had a worryingly random first chapter. However, I thoroughly recommend it and will listen to its forerunner.
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