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
Yes. This and "State of Emergency", Sandbrook's other book about the early '70s in the UK.
Like "State of Emergency", Sandbrook continues to blow my mind about how desperate these times were for the Brits but how they always managed to persevere.
The story of Liberal Party head Jeremy Thorpe, involving a plot to murder a former lover. The would-be hit-man did manage to kill the lover's dog. Crazy story.
I was depressed when I finished it.
I wish Sandbrook's books on Britain in the Sixties were available on Audible. Can't wait for his books on the Eighties. This gave me great perspective on where the Thatcherite movement came from.
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.
The best--I would have paid full price for it!
All of them--uh, except the killers. I mean I felt a degree of sympathy for nearly all of the political figures.
Thorpe's impersonations! I've been listening almost nonstop. I hope he is recording another work of nonfiction by Sandbrook right now!
"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.
"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.
"Fascinating dissection of the late 1970s"
I enjoyed the author’s account of the early 1970s and how dismal life was, but this book reminds me that the late 70s were even worse. Harold Wilson avoided too many strikes by letting the strong unions have what ever they demanded inevitably leading to massive inflation. Little did we know that he was drinking to excess and falling victim to the early symptoms of Alzheimers disease. I leave the book feeling sorry for Jim Callaghan who inherited an economy in crisis and was helpless to stop the country grinding to a stop in the ‘Winter of Discontent’ with rubbish piling up in the streets, bodies unburied and supermarket shelves empty.
The weirdest thing for me was the upheaval in many schools where radical ideas led to abolishing conventional teaching which, taken to extreme, meant pupils deciding what to learn (or not) with no testing or prizes. Universities, particularly in the social sciences, were also subject to severe disruption by a minority of militants of the hard left.
Inevitably this book is dominated by politics, but there are a few lighter moments as other themes are visited. This was an event-filled time with not only political conflict but also the Provisional IRA active in mainland Britain and moves for Scottish and Welsh devolution.
No era is unaffected by what came before and it in turn will influence what happens next. The late 70s are a prime example: the troubles started under Heath and the anarchy of the late 70s are main the reason why Margaret Thatcher won a decisive victory in the 1979 election.
It's a very long book, but my interest never flagged. The narrator does the author proud. He’s a pretty good mimic and reads with verve.
"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.
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!
Fascinating, illuminating, funny
The depth of knowledge which cross-references the politics, events and even pop music of the years
I bought this to listen to on a driving tour of Europe and it's a testament to the narrator that after 10 hours driving each day I still listened to more of the book in the hotels at night The enthusiasm for all 40-odd hours of narration is infectious and he's clearly having a whale of a time and the barely suppressed giggles add to thatThe voices are just stunning - I can remember all the characters and it's amazing to be able to visualise the speaker just from the first few wordsI haven't written a review for any of the over 80 books I've heard but I felt I had to write this one as the author has done such a superb job of illuminating the gaps from my early teens but that combined with the narrator's abilities really does make this the best AB I've purchasedCan't wait for the 80s oneThank you!
"A good book about a bleak time"
A recent anarchy
It's a history book about relatively recent times. It's better, more wide ranging and deeper than Andrew Marr's books about twentieth century British history.
The narrator, David Thorpe, was brilliant at voicing the entire political establishment of the 1970's. Enoch to Benn and Wilson to Thatcher. Like Mike Yarwood.
It's a long long book about only a few years.
To see how we have ended up today with a huge disparity in wealth and earnings with unions de-clawed, consumer choice wide beyond comprehension, you have to see what it was like in the 1970's with strikes, inflation, no choice in TV, few restaurants, football violence and a vacuum at the hear of government.
A very good book.
"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'.
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