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4.8 out of 5 stars50
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 27 October 2010
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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on 2 November 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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VINE VOICEon 28 December 2010
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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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.

There are also a few new photographs, these and some additional information reveal that Nella did get another dog after 'Old Sol', despite her assurance that 'He shall always be my dog'... I'd often thought of these words and felt it was a shame to deny herself the pleasure of a dog's company, not to mention the interest it would give her husband. We only meet 'Garry' briefly but I hope he did bring her some joy.

There's a glossary that will prove useful to overseas readers, though it was a sharp shock to see terms such as 'Fynnon Salts' and 'Phyllosan' explained - it's only now I realise that these childhood commonplaces disappeared some time ago.
This is a book to keep and to read again, both for the quality of the writing and for some, the wonderful evocations of times past. Also, for all those who infer that despite privations, it was better back then- read this, and decide, was it really?
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on 2 November 2010
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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VINE VOICEon 11 March 2011
Having read the first two volumes of Nella Last's diary contribution to Mass Observation I eagerly awaited this third volume. I was not disappointed. Nella had a wonderful way with words, and had a knack of making mundane happenings seem far from ordinary. Fascinating reading yet again which really brought the early 1950s to life for me. I particularly liked her frequent references to shopping for food, the prices she had to pay, what she baked and cooked, and what she and her husband had for tea and dinner - these gave a real insight into what it was like striving to put a decent meal on the table during the austerity years following the Second World War. She had a hard life coping with her husband's nervous problems, real and imaginary. She came across as a very skilled homemaker as well as being involved outside the home with the local WVS. A thoroughly good read and one I would recommend to anyone with the slightest bit of interest in social history.
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on 29 August 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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on 23 March 2011
Having read and enjoyed the first two books namely Nella's War and Nella's Peace I was delighted to discover yet a further book compiled of her diary entries in the 1950's for mass observation.
Nella, a very strong character compared to that of her husband who was a strange nervous and moody man.
She described the beauty of the Lake District throughout the seasons with great sensitivity.
Her day by day description of the meals she was able to produce at a time when food was either rationed or difficult to obtain were quite remarkable.
Most interesting too to read the price of food, clothing etc.
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on 24 March 2013
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 - and it has. I still think back to her gentle ramblings and really feel I knew this woman. I loved the words she used and the terms, and her honesty about things which many never would have put to paper. Nella came from the town my ancestors lived in, so there was a special connection for me as she vividly described areas they must have frequented.I would definitely recommend this book.
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on 3 November 2011
I loved the first two of Nella's diaries - and this third one did not disappoint. What heights this woman could have reached if she had been released to fly! She was hampered by an unenlightened society, and held back by the demands of a neurotic self absorbed husband. She made the best of her lot, however, and found joy in small things and achevements. I wish I could have met her! I have a holiday home in Cumbria - not far from Barrow - and could not resist looking up the house. It was an eerie feeling - standing on the pavement she must have walked on a million times - and I longed to see if the laburnum tree and her lilac tree were still in the back garden!I visit Ulverston a lot, as I love it - and loved to hear how she shopped for material in the market - which knowing the little market hall well - I can visualise.Barrow should be proud of this daughter! Victoria Wood brought her character to life in the DVDso well. I could dip into all three books again and again - and hope for others.
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