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British Summer Time Begins

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781408710548

Price: £9.99

ON SALE: 9th July 2020

Genre: Humanities / History

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British Summer Time Begins is about summer holidays of the mid-twentieth century and how they were spent, as recounted to Ysenda Maxtone-Graham in vividly remembered detail by people who were there. Through this prism, it paints a revealing portrait of twentieth-century Britain in summertime: how we were, how families functioned, what houses and gardens and streets were like, what journeys were like, and what people did all day in their free time. It explores their expectations, hopes, fears and habits, the rules or lack of rules under which they lived, their happiness and sadness, their sense of being treasured or neglected – all within living memory, from pre-war summers to the late 1970s.

Ysenda takes us back to the long stretch of time from the last days of June till the early days of September – those months when the term-time self was cast off and you could become the person you really were, and you had (if you were lucky) enough hours in the endless succession of days to become good at the things that would later define your adulthood.

The ‘showpiece’ part of the summer holidays was ‘the summer holiday‘, when families took off to the seaside, or to grandparents’ houses teeming with cousins, or on early package holidays to France or Spain, siblings wedged into the back of small cars, roof-racks clattering, mothers preparing picnics. British Summer Time Begins is as much about the long weeks either side of that holiday as the trip itself: the weeks when nothing much officially happened, boredom often lurked nearby, and you vanished for hours on end, nobody much knowing or even caring where you were. Could it be that those unscheduled days were actually the most important and formative of your life?

From the author of the beloved Terms & Conditions, British Summer Time Begins is a delightful, nostalgic and joyous celebration of summers.


A wonderfully evocative and unashamedly nostalgic account of how our childhood minds were formed
This splendid book rings bells galore . . . with her beady eye, Maxtone Graham keeps things tight and purposeful. The sweet aroma of nostalgia is never far away . . . this perfect little book serves as both a celebration, and a lament
Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday
This book has enough stories for a hundred novels . . . it is unbearably touching, probably because it is tales of children; their vulnerability, their talents, their dreams. It recalls a shabbier, parochial England . . . I wept
Tanya Gold, Oldie
Glorious nostalgia . . . A Miss Marple of memory, she detects all the things that made us us . . . Almost every page of this glorious book triggers a Proustian rush of recollection . . . Lots of books have tried to capture the essence of the summer holidays. Maxtone Graham's is the best. There are moments when the quality of her noticing allied to a deep sympathy for the men and women who lent her their younger selves achieves a rare poetry
Allison Pearson, Telegraph
Hilarious, nostalgic and tragic in turns, this captivating social history is a must
Country Life
I defy anyone who lived in it not to be irresistibly transported back to their eight-year-old self, reliving the wild, eccentric, poor-yet-rich fun of pre-internet, pre-neurotic-parented childhood. This is a joyous book, one to make you smile in recognition, yearn to talk to your best pals from the time and wish to record your own memories
Melanie Reid, The Times
[A] joyously addictive history of British summer holidays . . . Maxtone Graham is a wonderfully spry and eloquent writer . . . she has a fine ear for others' words - and a high sense of comedy
Laura Cumming, Observer
British Summer Time Begins does a remarkable job of awakening the reader's deepest and most tender memories: with a deceptively light touch it took me by the hand, and led me across sunlit lawns towards my own childhood . . . Graham evokes the muted magic of empty hours and nearsilences
Laura Thompson, Times Literary Supplement
This hugely enjoyable book, ranging from 1930 to 1980, is not just about seaside holidays. Its subject is that 'vast stretch of untimetabled time' which began with the school bell ringing for the last time in July and went on until lessons began again in September. Drawing on the memories of dozens of people, it's a wonderful portrait of long summer weeks when so many of us, free from adult scrutiny ('My parents had no idea where I was'), found our true selves through play
Daily Mail
British Summer Time Begins is shot through with brilliant phrases and vignettes that have nothing and everything to do with the subject at hand . . . I wonder whether Maxtone Graham has founded a new school of historical writing
Tom Crewe, London Review of Books