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Love Lessons: A Wartime Diary (VMC) [Paperback]

Joan Wyndham
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
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Book Description

1 Nov 2001 VMC (Book 477)

On my way to the studio there was an air-raid. I ran into the brick shelter in the middle of the road. There were poor little Leonard and Agnes sitting on their suitcases, having lost their all. Luckily Leonard had been wearing his best trousers at the time. Madame Arcana was there too wearing a gold brocade toque and a blanket. It was bloody cold and I wanted to pee badly, but couldn't. Leonard wouldn't give me his seat as he believes in the equality of the sexes, so I sat on the floor...'

August 1939. As a teenage Catholic virgin, Joan Wyndham spent her days trying to remain pure and unsullied and her nights trying to stay alive. Huddled in the air-raid shelter, she wrote secretly and obsessively about the strange yet exhilarating times she was living through, sure that this was ' the happiest time of my life'.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (1 Nov 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860498779
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860498770
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 12.4 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 212,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Fresh, exuberant, wonderfully funny (VAL HENNESSY)

A marvellous book -- so funny, and moving, and its immediacy is extraordinary! Joan Wyndham is a marvellous writer, one of those rare people with perfect pitch (SELINA HASTINGS)

No one, except Anthony Powell, has managed to create so exactly the atmosphere of London in the forties (THE TIMES)

A latter-day Pepys in camiknickers ((tbc))

Book Description

* 'A latter-day Pepys in camiknickers

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable and wonderfully funny wartime diaries 22 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Joan Wyndham's wartime diaries give a unique insight into life in Britain during the war through the eyes of a teenage girl discovering adult relationships for the first time. All the charm of London's bustling bohemian community is captured beautifully, as the young Joan navigates a meandering path through the sexual advances of unruly "artists" and the chastening controlling influence of her prudish mother. Even at the tender age of seventeen, Joan Wyndham's rare literary talent is in full flow. Even minor characters in her extraordinary world are portrayed so well as to give the reader the impression that she knows them herself, and the author herself soon assumes the role of a close personal friend. In turns, moving and hilariously funny.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating funny wartime memoir 6 Aug 2004
Joan Wyndham"s enthralling wartime diary covers the period from August 1939 to May 1941 and she certainly lived life to the full during this period. She is not quite seventeen at the beginning of the diary, and living with her divorced mother and her eccentric companion Sid. Brought up to be a good Catholic, she is nevertheless eager to experience the sins of the flesh, and she encounters a number of attractive, outrageous and unsuitable men before finally falling for the seductive and impossible Rupert. The story of her amorous adventures is interwoven with vivid descriptions of bohemian London life and the hordes of eccentric and colourful people she encountered. Tragedy is never far away though. For instance there is a delightful description of dancing at the Cafe de Paris to Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson and his band, then a few chapters later comes the stark tragedy of the bombing of the Cafe, with Johnson and all but one of his band killed. Some of the funniest passages concern Joan's valiant efforts to cope with the intricacies of contraception,trying to please the ungrateful and impossible Rupert. The book ends with her joining the Wrens, you can read about Joan's adventures as a Wren in the equally delightful sequel to this book 'Love is Blue'.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A young girl in Chelsea 3 Feb 2010
I loved this book. I had read excerpts from it in "The Assassin's Cloak" and the expectations they created were not disappointed. Joan Wyndham is a wonderful writer - so clear and direct that it's hard to believe she was 17 when she wrote Love Lessons. She evokes wartime London so well by describing just her small part of it - she reminds me of Rose Macaulay in that she never patronises, nor even explains, but instead credits the reader with the ability to understand. Her stories of Bohemian Chelsea life are fascinating, and paint a brilliant picture of a lost world in which artists could still manage on very little money and (despite what later generations may think) lived a wild and liberated life. The fact that Joan is - at least at the outset - the innocent amongst all these characters makes her a great observer, and her observations on all the appallingly selfish men she encounters are sometimes funny, but sometimes quite poignant in the way that they contrast Joan's underlying sincerity and naivety with the others' hedonistic amorality.

Having read this book I found an old magazine article about Joan and her daughter. The daughter - by then in her 30s - had discovered Joan's diaries, and said that her overwhelming feeling on reading them was one of jealousy on realising what an amazing youth her mother had had (though I believe Joan carried on in much the same vein for most of her life). To that I can only say "hear hear".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars witty writing 7 Aug 2009
By polly
A wonderful evocation of the first forays into sexual experience among the hard up bohemians of London in the late thirties. Sex was just as irresponsible as now a days, but so much more generous and so much less prurient. A relief from the woe is me heavy portentous gender and PC writing that is the present norm. Much wittier too.
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