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Summary

Bloomsbury presents On the Cusp by David Kynaston, read by Mark Meadows.

The real '60s began on 5 October 1962. On that remarkable Friday, the Beatles hit the world with their first single, ‘Love Me Do’, and the first James Bond film, Dr No, had its world premiere in London: two icons of the future heralding a social and cultural revolution.

On the Cusp, continuing David Kynaston’s groundbreaking history of post-war Britain, takes place during the summer and early autumn of 1962, in the charged months leading up to the moment that a country changed. The Rolling Stones' debut at the Marquee Club, the last Gentlemen versus Players match at Lord’s, the issue of Britain’s relationship with Europe starting to divide the country, Telstar, the satellite, beaming live TV pictures across the world, ‘Telstar’, the record, a siren call to a techno future - these were months thick with incident, all woven together here with an array of fresh contemporary sources, including diarists both famous and obscure.

Britain would never be the same again after these months. Sometimes indignant, sometimes admiring, always empathetic, On the Cusp evokes a world of seaside holidays, of church fetes, of Steptoe and Son - a world still of seemingly settled social and economic certainties, but in fact on the edge of fundamental change.

©2021 David Kynaston (P)2021 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic reviews

"This is Kynaston at his best. A thousand glimpses of British life in 1962 produce a rich and vivid picture of a nation in all its human complexity, standing at the edge of great change. Beautifully woven, it yields surprises and fresh insights on every page - and in my case a blizzard of memories." (Ian Jack)

"A compulsive read.... Generous as well as sharp." (Margaret Drabble)

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Stream of consciousness history

I found this a very innovative, original approach to a popular history book. Not only because it focused on a just one year - 1962, taken as Britain on the eve of the cultural revolution of the 60s - but because the title jumped from location to location, big event to ordinary person's diary. Maybe it's different reading this off the page, but the effect of being an audiobook was that this had a very disjointed feel. I had to get used to it and took the first hour or so to do so. You won't find deep analysis here but a series of snapshots of every day life and experience. The author has done a good job of including lots of different material and voices and if you're interested in the social and cultural history of mid-20th century Britain, or, a very specific moment in that history, this is very enjoyable. The title rarely, however, really explains the events it describes - maybe that is the idea - but it did feel a little intellectually lightweight at times. Entertaining and evocative, if not always tremendously informative.