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Nella Last in the 1950s: Further diaries of Housewife, 49 Paperback – 7 Oct 2010


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Nella Last in the 1950s: Further diaries of Housewife, 49 + Nella Last's Peace: The Post-War Diaries Of Housewife 49 + Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of 'Housewife, 49'
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (7 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846683505
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846683503
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 12.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Patricia Malcolmson. I've always been intrigued by the lives of those around us-- today and in the recent past. I've been drawn to social history themes from laundry work to hairdressing and other aspects of everyday life too often forgotten.

In 2012 I co-edited and published 'The Diaries of Nella Last: Writing in War and Peace', 'Warriors on the Home Front: Three Surrey Diarists', and wrote and published 'Me and My Hair: A Social History'.

The lives of so-called 'ordinary people' are important. I choose to honour them.

Product Description

Review

Unhappily married, and frustrated by the tedium of domestic captivity, she recorded with exceptional honesty her reactions to privation, bombing, fear and dreary monotony, speaking for millions to whom the war denied any heroic role. Among the most striking passages is that which describes her response to the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945: she greeted the news not with exultation at allied victory, but with revulsion about the event's significance for mankind. (Max Hastings Observer 2010-03-14)

A vivid and characteristically distinctive account of those uncertain years poised between austerity and affluence. It confirms Nella Last's status as one of the major twentieth-century English diarists. (David Kynaston)

It's wonderful to be back in Nella's world again. Such emotional candour, so many entertaining little personal battles. Unquestionably one of the great British diaries of the mid-20th century. (Simon Garfield)

Nella Last's diaries give a fascinating and detailed account of life in the early 1950s. The prose is such a delight to read - lively, entertaining, observational and vividly realised (Gervase Phinn, author of Road to the Dales)

A must-read (Yours 2010-10-05)

Diary of a Desperate Housewife: A fascinating record of the "ordinary" life of a Lancashire housewife... [she has] a marvellous gift for fining pleasure in small things. She had a poet's eye for landscape... She is funny too and sharply comic... Whatever her mood, Nella Last has the quality shared by all great diarists: of making her readers feel that however vast the differences between her life and ours, they are easily outweighed by the shared experiences of love and loss, disappointment and hope, that she describes with such artless humanity. (Jane Shilling Daily Mail 2010-10-15)

This third compelling volume of f her detailed diaries offers a fascinating narrative of daily life in Britain during the early Fifties (Charlotte Vowden Daily Express 2010-10-15)

Nella was one of the most prolific and lively contributors to Mass Observation... offers vivid insight into the straitened circumstances of post-war provincial life... A writer of warmth and sensibility, Nella's reflections went well beyond the Mass Observation remit. What we get is not only a historical document, but a self-knowing portrait of a woman whose cheerful exterior was often at odds with the "hollow shell" she felt herself to be inside. (Emma Hagestadt The Lady 2010-10-12)

Last's self-awareness and clear prose help us understand the attitudes and experiences of real, complex members of the public. (Alastair Mabbott Glasgow Herald 2010-10-30)

Delightful... this fascinating document shows how change was felt by ordinary people. Detailed and totally absorbing. (Saga 2010-11-01)

An evocative record of post-war provincial life... rich in personal insight... A writer of warmth and sensibility... What we get is not only a historical document, bur a self-knowing woman whose cheerful exterior was often at odds with the "hollow shell" she felt herself to be inside. (Emma Hagestadt Independent 2010-12-10)

History Books of the Year: A poignant reminder of the pleasures of micro-history... perceptive. (Lisa Hilton Independent on Sunday 2010-12-12)

Book Description

Picking up where bestseller Nella Last's Peace left off, this fascinating diary from the 1950s delves into the thoughts, feelings and daily life of housewife, mother and skilful narrator Nella Last, as well as that of her family, friends and neighbours.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Demdike on 27 Oct 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read the first two volumes of Nella Last's diaries more times than I care to remember, I also adored Victoria Wood's adaptation of the first book 'Housewife 49'. So I eagerly anticipated the release of the third volume and was most definitely not disappointed!

It really is 'more of the same' but this is no bad thing, Nella wrote in such a lovely style with flowing prose that really captivates interest. We're now in the years following World War Two - Nella and Will are dealing with advancing age and ill health (reading about Will's mental struggles and how Nella, herself troubled with anxiety and depression copes with him shows you that really nothing changes from one decade to another) There are some very poignant entries which really made me feel very emotional indeed.

It's also so interesting to read about how Nella managed the household, the meals she cooked and the things she did on a day to day basis to keep their home going.

I really do hope there are more books planned, Nella was one of the most prolific contributors to the Mass Observation programme, so I'm keeping everything crossed more volumes are on their way soon!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By hiljean VINE VOICE on 28 Dec 2010
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Having read and enjoyed the first two volumes of Nella Last's edited diaries, I was keen to read the third but was slightly apprehensive that this one would not live up to the previous two. Luckily I had no cause for concern. Perhaps it helps that you feel you have come to know her, her family, and her circle of friends and acquaintances through the previous books. She now has a recently retired husband who suffers from "nerves" and depression, and two grown-up sons, one of them having moved to Australia, and the other living in Northern Ireland with his wife and children.

I find it very easy to relate to Nella and her problems; but also to her joy in the natural world, her fondness of her cats, and her dealings with friends and neighbours. We also experience through her the concerns of wider events of the time such as the development of nuclear weapons, and the devastating effects of polio.

This is social history through the eyes of someone fairly ordinary but with an eye for detail and a gift for writing. Superb.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By D. C. Gowans on 2 Nov 2010
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The third volume of Mass Observation diaries distilled from the pen of a Barrow-in-Furness housewife, circa 1950s.
The war has become a fond memory of camaraderie and purpose for Nella Last as she begins to struggle with her own physical decline, and her husband's increasingly debilitating anxiety and depression.
I sadly sensed that Nella was begining to give way to her husband's moribund personality again, now that the stimulation and urgency of war had passed and both her sons were living away from home. This makes up the dramatic undercurrent to her usual lively entries detailing meal preparations and local gossip, economic conditions and world events.
Another vivid picture of times gone for ever, journalled by a woman who wrote almost nightly for 25 years, yet had no idea of the mass readership she would eventually claim.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 2 Nov 2010
Format: Paperback
I loved the first two Nella Last books, but expected this one to be less meaty. I was pleasantly surprised. No war going on. No austerity, by post war standards. But there was a marriage going on and frankly, there's an awful lot for empty nesters to identify with here, despite the fact Nella was an (extraordinary!)Edwardian and her husband, dare I say, a typical Edwardian man. And decades of women's progress have come in between. Marriage is marriage is marriage. Of the three books, this one strikes me as dying to be made into a novel. She was almost there.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sue Antrobus on 29 Aug 2011
Format: Paperback
I found nella's first two volumns of dairies very intertested, and gained an understanding of daily life in the second World War and how the war effort give opportunities for women like nella to have an active life outside the home. In this volumn, Nella's liife is very much focused around her husband and is therefore less interested, but i really liked Nella so was interested to see how her life was going and how she coped with her husbands increasing dependance and an empty nest now that her sons have left.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. I. McCulloch TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Jun 2012
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The time span covered by this book is relatively short - just a few years in the early 1950s. Not the entire decade, although Nella did write diaries to cover this period.
It would be a good idea for anyone reading this to read Nella Last's Peace first. In that we see how the bright, lively but highly introspective and astute Nella becomes more worn down by the demands of family life. Turning straight to this after 'Nella Last's War' would come as quite a shock. Nella still has a wise and incredibly observant eye, but many of her comments on friends and neighbours have a bitter, caustic edge missing from the war diaries.

Perhaps it's no wonder. It's very clear from these just how difficult life with her highly strung husband must have been. The shortages of everyday items that characterised life in the first two diaries have not disappeared. Life was very difficult - and Nella doesn't pull her punches, making this a fascinating, valuable resource for social historians and all those interested in times gone by.

We also observe Cliff Last's fledgling career as a successful sculptor in Australia - and there is an interesting account of a trip home by him. Life with Cliff around was seldom boring, but he was also able to make clear home truths to his father in a way that made him listen.
Nella is still able to gain joy from simple pleasures such as her handicrafts, the company of her pets and trips out to her beloved Lakes. Her grandchildren appear infrequently but the pleasure that the two boys give Nella is very clear - there are also trips to London involved with this, as her son Arthur and his wife Edith relocated from Northern Ireland.
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