The Victorians , describing the vanished world of his "parents' ge"/>

After the Victorians: The Decline of Britain in the World

A. N. Wilson, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $35 (609p) ISBN 978-0-374-10198-5

Wilson—an estimable novelist and historian—has written a splendid sequel to The Victorians , describing the vanished world of his "parents' generation" between 1901 and 1953. Wilson eschews a rigidly chronological narrative in favor of unveiling a colorful, quirky "portrait of an age." Encompassing everything from high politics through middlebrow pursuits to low culture, this book displays Wilson's magpie-ish talent for the telling detail, the amusing anecdote and the wry observation to delightful effect. Reading it, one feels—with Wilson—a wistful, admiring pang for these post-Victorians, who were born at the zenith of British power and died just as their great empire slipped away. What they left, argues Wilson, was a heritage of defending a peculiarly British form of liberty; what succeeded them was government by a bureaucratic class of "colourless, pushing people controlling others for the sake of control." The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 provides Wilson with a fittingly elegiac conclusion: This "splendid piece of religio-patriotic pageantry" may have justly celebrated "peace, freedom, prosperity," but it was also a "consoling piece of theatre" that temporarily obscured the reality of America's new dominance. 32 pages of illus. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 08/29/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
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