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Nella Last in the 1950s: Further diaries of Housewife, 49 [Paperback]

Robert Malcolmson , Patricia Malcolmson
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Oct 2010 Housewife, 49
'I can never understand how the scribbles of such an ordinary person ... can possibly have value.' So wrote Nella Last in her diary on 2 September 1949. Sixty years on, tens of thousands of people have read and enjoyed the first two volumes of her uniquely detailed and moving diaries, written during World War II and its aftermath as part of the Mass Observation project, and the basis for BAFTA-winning drama Housewife 49 starring Victoria Wood (with a follow-up under discussion). This third compelling volume sees Nella, now in her sixties, writing of what ordinary people felt during those years of growing prosperity in a modernising Britain. Her diary offers a detailed, moving and humorous narrative of daily life at a time that shaped the society we live in today. It is an account that's full of surprises as we learn more about her relationship with 'my husband' (never 'Will') and her fears of nuclear war. Outwardly Nella's life was commonplace; but behind this mask were a penetrating mind and a lively pen. As David Kynaston said on Radio 4, she 'will come to be seen as one of the major twentieth century English diarists.'

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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: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,285 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


`A must-read' -- Yours

`Fascinating ... [she has] a marvellous gift for finding pleasure in small things.' --Daily Mail

`This third compelling volume of her detailed diaries offers a fascinating narrative of daily life in Britain' --Charlotte Vowden, Daily Express

'What we get is not only a historical document, but a self-knowing portrait of a woman' --Emma Hagestadt, The Lady

`Last's self-awareness and clear prose help us understand the attitudes and experiences of real, complex members of the public.' -- Glasgow Herald

`History Books of the Year: A poignant reminder of the pleasures of micro-history... perceptive.' -- Lisa Hilton, Independent on Sunday

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

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply captivating 27 Oct 2010
By Demdike
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Great social history 28 Dec 2010
By hiljean VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Power cuts and personal sadness... 2 Nov 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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
5.0 out of 5 stars The More Things Change 2 Nov 2010
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
3.0 out of 5 stars A quieter life for Nella 29 Aug 2011
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
5.0 out of 5 stars More time with Nella in the early 50s. 28 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Catching up with a friend again.
I so wish we could tell Nella how much we enjoy reading her words, dipping into what is just a small selection of the vast amount she wrote for Mass Observation. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Janet Gogerty
4.0 out of 5 stars Nella Last in the 1950's
If you enjoy reminiscing about the war and the following years you will enjoy reading this book. Although as with its predecessor, it's tends to repeat itself quite often, which... Read more
Published 3 months ago by jillwroe
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Item was just as it was described, I appreciate the fast delivery, item was well packed, good seller. Many thanks.
Published 5 months ago by D
5.0 out of 5 stars really good
you need to buy all the books to follow the story very interesting to read about the war years good
Published 11 months ago by sharon t
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating account of post war Britain
Nella 's story continues giving us an insight into her life post war. She is a master at drawing you into her world which is at times challenging to say the least. Read more
Published 12 months ago by funkybookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars Original Birthday Gift
The recipient was delighted with this book. A good read for anyone growing up in this era, or with a landmark birthday
Published 12 months ago by s j price
5.0 out of 5 stars Nella Last
Excellant book, will now purchase the other two. Came very quickly in the post and packaged very well nothing else to say
Published 15 months ago by Mrs. E. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars Nella Last in the 1950s
Since I stopped reading Nella's (3) diaries, I really miss her! As I got to know her so well in the first diary, I was well aware that her departure from my life would leave a void... Read more
Published 15 months ago by lizziecro
5.0 out of 5 stars A nice gentle read
So the last of the published diaries of Nella Last. I didn't find it as riveting as either of the first two volumes (Nella Last's War and Nella Last's peace) but it was nice to... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Grumpy Granny
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and rewarding read!
Read her other diaries and am fascinated by her - and by reading about England during that period. I was an au pair in Nottingham in 1957-58 and have loved England ever since!
Published 16 months ago by Ebba Hribar
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