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Two Thousand Million Man-Power follows Robert, a chemist, and Katherine, a schoolteacher, through two tumultuous decades in English history. From New Year's Eve 1919 to the funeral of King George V in 1936, they experience youthful radicalism, economic boom and bust, comfortable middle class life in the suburbs and grinding poverty and the debilitating experience of looking for work where there is none to be found. Gertrude Trevelyan sets their story against the backdrop of newspaper headlines, radio broadcasts and advertising slogans, contrasting the promises of progress and technology with the brutal effects of economic upswings and downturns. The result is one of the finest fictional portraits of English life in the 1920s and 1930s — the equivalent for England of John Dos Passos's epic, U.S.A..
Utterly forgotten for over 80 years, Gertrude Trevelyan is finally being rediscovered. The stylistic and imaginative daring of her fiction arguably makes her one of the finest English novelists of the generation that followed Virginia Woolf.
A panoramic view of English life from 1919 to 1936, Two Thousand Million Man-Power is no wistful, nostalgic account of this time. Instead, Gertrude Trevelyan shows how even the brightest and most able personalities can be ground down by economic highs and lows and a system in which individuals quickly disappear into crowds and statistics. One year, Robert and Katherine are enjoying the consumer comforts of a radio, a car, a house in the suburbs. The next, they are struggling to make ends meet in a tiny, squalid East End flat as Robert trudges hopelessly into London each day in hopes of finding work. The result is a savage portrait equalled only by George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier.