William Collins £9.99
Paperback review: An English Affair - Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo, By Richard Davenport-Hines
Shamed by our nation's dirty laundry
Saturday 01 June 2013
Those who like to claim the Fifties and early Sixties as a "Golden Age" of moral behaviour, before counter-culture, women's lib, and hippies chucked it all up in the air, really should read this superb history, in which Richard Davenport-Hines goes way beyond the affair between John Profumo and Christine Keeler. This is a shocking indictment of an entire society – from city planners to politicians, journalists to slum landlords – full of the hypocrisy and criminality that pervaded the era.
In his very first paragraph, the author mentions "the cook's Daily Express", deliberately invoking a class consciousness reminiscent of the 1960 obscenity trail of Lady Chatterley's Lover, when the prosecution asked if it were "the kind of book you would wish your wife or your servants to read?" As Davenport-Hines shows, the classes were publicly mixing more and more – "good time girls" such as Keeler, who came from the most miserable of backgrounds and had little to protect them when things turned nasty, found themselves partying with cabinet ministers at stately homes.
What he also highlights is the breakdown in marriage. Page after page gives up one deceiving marriage after another, from Harold Macmillan's own to John Profumo's. Saving face was everything. Profumo's real crime, in the eyes of many, was to get caught and expose the whole game. This detailed and necessarily disillusioning history catches a sense of damage done by a generation of damaged men (Macmillan's war experiences had left him physically, and possibly emotionally, damaged). It seems we really never had it so bad.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 Stephen Hawking endorses Labour in the General Election
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3, review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton - really?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding