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Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of 'Housewife, 49' Paperback – 16 Nov 2006

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Frequently Bought Together

Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of 'Housewife, 49' + Nella Last's Peace: The Post-War Diaries Of Housewife 49 + Nella Last in the 1950s: Further diaries of Housewife, 49
Price For All Three: £25.17

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (16 Nov. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184668000X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846680007
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

I adored [it.]. An extraordinary glimpse into the heart of an 'ordinary' woman, Nella Last's day-to-day account of her war is spirited, poignant and utterly compelling. (Lucy Moore)

A classic of wartime literature...highly engaging, very moving. All Home Front life is here, especially the kitchen sink (Simon Garfield)

I relished it...her personality is so powerful...There are so many things to admire about her. (Margaret Forster)

A fantastic story...This is not the war of the newsreels - it's about tiny domestic difficulties, lumpy custard... (Victoria Wood)

About the Author

Suzie Fleming is a feminist writer and speaker; she lives in Cornwall.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By TJerram on 20 July 2007
Format: Paperback
In a time when families were being ripped apart, friends and their children were being killed and you didn't know what the future would bring Nella Last detailed every emotional day. My heart went out to her and women like her, who must have wondered what was happening to the world. Apart from detailing everything from recipes, shopping lists and her work at the centre and shop, it tells us of her hopes for future generations, how her heart goes out to other nationalities including the german mothers who were loosing their sons too. She has a modern mind, quite the opposite of what you would think of a 50 year old woman in the early 1940's. Non judgemental and always looking on the bright side despite her own personal battle with nerves and a domineering husband.

She is an inspiration to modern women, how well would we cope in the same austerity and daily horror?
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124 of 126 people found the following review helpful By P. Kaye on 24 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
Having seen Victoria Wood's wonderful period drama last year, Father Christmas heard my request and kindly brought me the book.

I have deliberately taken several weeks to read it because I wanted to savour and enjoy it to the full.

We are so lucky that Nella Last decided to join the Mass Observation Project as she had a natural talent for writing about the everyday "nitty gritty" of the war years. Even though most of us will have heard stories from parents and grandparents about life in the war, inevitably they will be dominated by what the men did. This is wartime life on a daily basis as seen through the eyes of a middle-aged woman who happily writes about everything - shopping, cooking, worrying about her sons, her health, her inexhaustible wish to "do something", sleep deprivation, sex (yes, sex!) - it's all there. Obviously the MOP sent out questionnaires from time to time requesting particular information, but Nella uses her diary to chronicle her innermost thoughts with a very heavy emphasis on her marriage, her undying love for her boys and especially "a woman's lot". She could see that when the war was over (assuming that Germany did not win) life would be very different for young women about to embark on marriage. They would not be happy to spend their entire life fitting everything in around their husband's wishes and needs and she was very envious of this.

She does not give many details regarding her life before the Second World War but it is very easy to read between the lines and realise that her bouts of ill health and depression were obviously very strongly linked to a dominent and domineering husband and in-laws.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By bookworm on 26 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can only add to the unalloyed praise of others and wish that Nella Last could know what pleasure and enlightenment her "scribbling" would bring to others over 60 years later.

She writes beautifully and naturally, but what's most interesting is the way she changes as the war progresses. At the beginning she is sickly and weak, plagued with arthritis, and refers to a "breakdown" she had a few years before. But she determines to "do something" for the war effort and joins the WVS. From there she goes from strength to strength, and the evolution of her ideas is fascinating; she comes to see her conventional marriage to an old stick of a husband as "slavery". She's also very observant and perceptive of the people around her.
She writes lyrically of walks home by moonlight, and trips out to the countryside at Coniston Water, but also of the stresses of the blitz, the challenges of getting palatable meals on the table every day, and everyday squabbles and power games at the WVS. She has a truly open mind, always questioning and wondering what the future holds for her sons and the other young people she knows.

I don't want to say too much about it; just read it. It's one of those books where you long to meet the author; she really does seem like someone you know and admire.
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Demdike on 29 July 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Without a doubt this has got to be one of the most wonderful, thought provoking, emotional yet rewarding books I've ever read. There wasn't a single part of this book I didn't like, I wanted to savour every bit of it. Nella Last is someone who I came to greatly admire. She was resourceful, kind, helpful and very sensitive and thoughtful.
She always strived to do the best by her family and look after others - and despite her own nerves, depression and anxiety she did a sterling job. I felt such empathy with her when she described her anxieties, her tears and her down days - even though our experiences are poles and decades apart - nothing really changes in the human psyche.
I loved her vivid descriptions of the food she cooked, how she scrimped and saved and put by and still managed to create all these nourishing meals so that her husband and her sons didn't go hungry. How she found time to do all she did is a mystery, but she did it and it was people like her that kept our country going.
I'm really sorry to have finished the book and not have any more of it to read such was the quality of the writing. I felt as though I knew all the family, and was party to so many secrets.
I can't really find enough superlatives to describe it - a required read for anyone interested in history or anything to do with the Wars. Nella's beautifully honed prose is a delight to read, and something that Victoria Wood also captured beautifully in her reworking of the diary for TV.
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