Frostquake by Juliet Nicolson
Wednesday 10 February, 8pm
Join us on Zoom to hear Juliet Nicolson talk about Frostquake: the frozen winter of 1962 and how Britain emerged a different country
On Boxing Day 1962, when Juliet Nicolson was eight years old, the snow began to fall. It did not stop for ten weeks. The drifts in East Sussex reached twenty-three feet. In London, milkmen made deliveries on skis. On Dartmoor 2,000 ponies were buried in the snow, and starving foxes ate sheep alive.
It wasn’t just the weather that was bad. The threat of nuclear war had reached its terrifying height with the recent Cuban Missile Crisis. Unemployment was on the rise, de Gaulle was blocking Britain from joining the European Economic Community, Winston Churchill, still the symbol of Great Britishness, was fading. These shadows hung over a country paralysed by frozen heating oil, burst pipes and power cuts.
And yet underneath the frozen surface, new life was beginning to stir. A new breed of satirists threatened the complacent decadence of the British establishment. A game-changing band from Liverpool topped the charts, becoming the ultimate symbol of an exuberant youthquake. Scandals such as the Profumo Affair exposed racial and sexual prejudice. When the thaw came, ten weeks of extraordinary weather had acted as a catalyst between two distinct eras.
From poets to pop stars, shopkeepers to schoolchildren, and her own family’s experiences, Juliet Nicolson traces the hardship of that frozen winter and the emancipation that followed. That spring, new life was unleashed, along with freedoms we take for granted today.
A brilliant concept transformed into a brilliant and revelatory book. Completely fascinating and engrossing – William Boyd
The freezing winter of 1962-63 finally thawed in early March and as if on cue British society and politics became molten and mobile. Those who lived through it will never forget it. Those who didn’t, need to know about it. Juliet Nicolson is brilliant at recapturing mood, moment and character. It’s as if the inhabitants of that extraordinary time have flung open the door and welcomed her in from the blizzard outside to tell her all. This book is a must – Peter Hennessy
Frostquake is wholly remarkable . . . a rare and engrossing read that brought that time straight back to my memory and consciousness – Vanessa Redgrave
I was absolutely enthralled from first page to last. It’s truly remarkable, so well written, and the scope of her research is extraordinary. I particularly admire the way she entwines her own family’s experience with what was going on at the time – a very vivid, accurate and perceptive portrayal of the period at all social, political and cultural levels – Selina Hastings
This is an absolutely mesmerising book. Where I knew of the events concerned I was fascinated by the vivid retelling, and when I didn’t I was utterly gripped – Antonia Fraser