Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Great Silence

The Bright Young People of 1920s England partied away the memories of the Great War.  Juliet Nicholson used a combination of contemporaneous news reports, personal diaries, and personal interviews to chronicle the confusing years that led to the decade-plus party.  Dividing the time between the Armistice and its second anniversary like the stages of grief, Nicholson shows how the war affected everyone - civilian and soldier, working class and titled landowner, children and adults.  Most of the stories are personal and not particularly significant, but two themes stand out.  Women who had been drafted into important civilian jobs weren't willing to just disappear into their homes and started laying the groundwork for the mores and laws that nearly a century later allowed me to become a scientist and then a lawyer. I already knew that (although not, obviously, the personal stories Nicholson tells), so the second major theme interested me more.  Harold Gillies, a New Zealand born surgeon, invented plastic and reconstructive surgery while treating injured soldiers.  All of The Great Silence fascinated me, but Gillies's work stayed with me.

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