"GOODBYE PICCADILLY" is a novel centered around 2 families in Britain, spanning the period from July to December 1914. One family - the Hunters of The Elms, Northcote - is middle class. Mr. Edward Hunter is a banker - yet with enough wealth as to be able to have servants (one set of servants lived with the Hunters while the other set lived in their own respective residences). The other family - the Wroughtons - is representative of an aristocratic class that enjoys considerable influence, possesses immense wealth, and commands everyone's respect.
While the middle and upper classes often dealt with one another formally and in business matters (Edward Hunter acted as a financial adviser to Earl Wroughton, the family head), the upper class seldom mingled socially with their middle class contemporaries, regarding them as their inferiors. Notwithstanding that, Charles Wroughton (Earl Wroughton's eldest son, who is destined to inherit the family estate and all that it entailed) espies Edward Hunter's eldest daughter Diana one day while on an outing and takes a fancy to her. Diana is 19, very beautiful, and longs for marriage. She has her eyes set on Charles - who is rather shy and ill-at-ease in most social situations. The odds are clearly against them both. For the Wroughtons would never countenance a marriage of their eldest son to - God forbid! - a banker's daughter.
What makes "PICCADILLY SUMMER" such a delight to read is the way Cynthia Harrod-Eagles brings forth a variety of fascinating characters across the classes who become so immediately human and real to the reader. Northcote goes from being a tranquil village to a community caught up in the initial excitement, demands, and stresses created by the outbreak of war in August 1914. By year's end, "Northcote reels under an influx of khaki volunteers, wounded soldiers and Belgian refugees."
The war itself which began as 'something remote' by virtue of being waged across the Channel in France and Belgium, was, at its outset, regarded by most people in Britain as a short-lived conflict that would result in an Allied victory by Christmas. But by Christmas, it is becoming clear in the public consciousness that the war is much more dangerous than previously thought with no end in sight. Casualties are much higher than anyone could have foreseen. And all the while, life in Northcote is changing under wartime pressures for everybody. What those changes will lead to remain to be revealed. (I can't wait to read the next novel in this 6-novel series.)