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War Crimes for the Home

War Crimes for the Home [Kindle Edition]

Liz Jensen
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

Liz Jensen's new novel, War Crimes for the Home, has an unlikely heroine in Gloria Taylor, nee Winstanley, a game old bird who loves a good joke and is not afraid to call a spade a spade. Or a slut a slut.

After a minor stroke, Gloria finds herself in Sea View, an old people's home with a nice big television in the lounge, where, if you look carefully through the big picture window, you can see the sea. There's also a problem with Gloria's memory. She may have Alzheimer's, she may just have selective memory loss-- or if you talk to certain members of her family, she may not have anything wrong with her mind other than a bit of deliberate Gloria bolshiness.

Gloria's son Hank and his family come to visit regularly and one day, a woman called Jill turns up and starts asking funny questions. Gloria would rather everyone just left her alone. It's bad enough seeing that little kid sitting on her bed dripping pond weed and blood most nights. She really annoys Gloria.

Funny thing is Gloria can remember so much about the war, when she and her sister worked in a munitions factory in Bristol and she met Ron, or Raan, the GI who initiated her in the ways of the flesh. One Yank and they're off too true! She can remember her first date with Ron, going to see the Great Zedorro, a hypnotist who got her up on stage and made her feel like a rod of iron. She can remember, the full gory details, the day one of the factory girls lost her arm and half her shoulder. And the day the telegram arrived about her sister's boyfriend and how Marge went off to drive ambulances in London and Gloria got lumbered with an Irish evacuee and her snotty kids. She can even remember much later, after the war finally ended, working as a pro back in London, where her Dad had worked the meat down at Smithfield market.

But there's so much more poor old Gloria can't remember. Things her son and the Jill woman keep ranting on about. Why do they want her to rake over all that boring old stuff? Why can't they just let sleeping dogs lie? What does it all matter now?

In War Crimes for the Home, Liz Jensen has conjured up a fabulously inventive, gripping tale; a sort of modern twist on the whodunnit, or in this case, who-dunn-what, with a very real, very spiky protagonist. Gloria bristles with indignation, speaks her mind however harsh it sounds and loves to shock with her filthy jokes and even filthier suggestions--which means that War Crimes is not for the prudish. It is however a wonderfully original but painfully raw story of an era when people lived in constant fear, hearts ruled heads and everyone lived for the moment. And Gloria was no exception. Although sometimes the moment turned out to be the future and people have to learn to live with the consequences, however unpalatable they may be. --Carey Green


"It's a tribute to Jensen that such a brutal tale can be told with jauntiness" -- Daily Mail, July 19th 2002

'A brilliant portrait of England chronicled with skewed humour and compassion by a most gifted and original writer' -- Mail on Sunday

'A moving, hilarious exploration of a life lived in shadow; a story of one woman's - perhaps Everywoman's - war' -- Sunday Times

'Breathtakingly coarse, wryly amusing and gut-wrenchingly tragic' -- Marie Claire

'Jensen is the thinking reader's Kathy Lette ... compelling ... a finely judged, absorbing novel' -- Independent on Sunday

'You will laugh aloud at the beginning - and probably weep at the end' -- Daily Telegraph

‘This is a terribly funny tragedy’ -- THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 5th April 2003

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 395 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (10 April 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004YVYQ56
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #50,305 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Liz Jensen was born in Oxfordshire in 1959. Her critically-acclaimed work spans black comedy, science fiction, satire, family drama, historical fantasy and psychological suspense. Three of her novels have been nominated for the Orange Prize and in 1998 she was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Award. She is Writer in Residence at Kingston University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her work has been developed for film and translated into more than 20 languages.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Different View of World War II 9 Jan 2004
By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Put it this way, I wouldn't lend this to my nan. See, this book tells it like it was, no heroics, no stolen kisses at the NAAFI dance, just hard graft for women pitching in for the war effort, the horrible enevitability of war for the men and how they got through it. Not with powdered egg and Vera Lynn, but living life because it could be your last day on earth. Gloria is not your sweet little old lady. In fact, she is not a very likeable character at all (she swears, likes rude jokes and is trying to seduce a man at the nursing home!) but when you find out through her memories what she went through during wartime, you can sympathise with her. As I say, not your average wartime story but entertaining and thought provoking nonetheless.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gripping, absorbing, and very moving read. 10 July 2002
By A Customer
This is the most strangely brilliant book I've read in ages. War Crimes for the Home tells a deeply poignant story of wartime love and loss on the home front, but it had me laughing too. There's real, earthy humour in there and it's peppered with jokes - most of them very tasteless and un-PC. But the real triumph is the heroine, Gloria (nee Winstanley), a crotchety old woman of `seventy-nine and three-quarters', who's holed up in a dismal old folks home called Sea View because she's losing her marbles. But just how many of them she has lost becomes less and less clear as the book progresses: is she mis-remembering things, inventing them, or deliberately forgetting? As a young woman, Gloria had a love affair with a handsome American airman called Ron, but it was to end in tears. To reveal just what kind of let-down Gloria had - and what crimes she committed to avenge her loss, and just how she had to re-write history to cope, would be to give away too much. But Jensen paces it just right, so that you're turning the pages fast and furious. She also debunks some of the myths of everyday stoicism and heroism in World War Two, and describes with a lot of relish the sort of lives ordinary women led in those savagely difficult times. But best of all, you come to admire and enjoy Gloria, despite the fact that she is in many ways a dislikeable, selfish monster, who does dislikeable, selfish, monstrous things. That's quite an achievement. This is a wonderfully haunting novel - and it tells the story of the war years in a totally new way.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sex and memory loss 5 July 2006
You know when you get a completely different perpective of a historical event, and it changes your whole view of that period? Well that has just happened.

War Crimes for the Home is World War 2 from a woman's perpsective, and as well as being glamourous (in parts), it is also really witty. The main character is Gloria, and the story is told by her in her alzheimish old age, with flashbacks to her life during the war. She and her sister work in a munitions factory and after their 12 hour shift go out on the lash to get merry and meet GIs:

You know what they say about GIs and knickers? One Yank and they're off!

Gloria and Marje like sex, I don't know why I was surprised by this. I had this view of the second world war, and probably all periods in history, which didn't really involve visualising the actual people who were a part of it, which of course is ridiculous, because if there were no people, then there would be no history. I think the reason for this is that history in books and films is slightly sanitised, and concentrates solely on events and battles and conflicts, and sometime overlooks the society which is affected. Maybe I am reading the wrong books.

Anyway, I loved the crudeness of the main character, and the fact that she was never ever afraid to admit that she had had sex, and still had it at the age of 76 with a man in her nursing home. I found that refreshing, because it is nice to know that old people still have sex.

Apart from the sex, Gloria is faced with issues from her past, like a daughter she had and blocked out of her life. It is difficult to work out whether she always forgot it, because the present day narrative is based around the fact that she has lost her memory.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars gloria's secret history 16 April 2010
This is a dark book graphically describing the situation of GI brides, but with many twists and turns. There is a lot of dark humour and corny jokes so loved by the chief character, a revolting, deluded old women called Gloria who looks back at her wartime affair with a handsome, sweet talking American pilot called Ron from Chicago. The author's achievement is to make the reader absorbed in this sordid relationship and to make the story in the context of the exigencies of war very convincing. She cleverly slowly reveals Gloria's secret past and the story by means of hypnosis in some hilarious passages.The book has some genuinely funny episodes but as another reviewer has remarked is not for the prudish.
So if you want to know what your gran or great gran did during the war, this is the book to read. Maybe you should discover their stories before it is too late. They will not be all as outrageous as Gloria's. Or will they?
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortably engrossing 3 Sep 2002
If a novel is judged by its unputdownability, War Crimes would win first price. If it is judged by its quality of writing, it would also win first price. If there is a price for lifting the reader's spirit, it would not hit the top exactly. I found it often very disturbing, sometimes downright sinister, and almost throughout, unbearably sad.
The main character, Gloria, looks back on her war time experiences as a young woman. She has managed to supress the most horrific incidents, all described from the younger Gloria's point of view with chilling realism. The old Gloria is a thoroughly unlovable sort of person, which of course often happens with the beginnings of senility, and her gradual descent into dementia brings out her hidden urges. The writer knows her stuff here, it's most unpleasantly genuine. Gloria is spiteful, suspicious and even violent, and her seduction of an elderly gent in the old folk's home where she's been dumped, would make even the most liberal of reader's hair stand on end. I thought Liz Jensen is incredibly brave to tackle elderly sex with such gusto, but I guess it was the one aspect of the novel that I did not quite believe. It's incredible how deep our prejudices about it, I'm ashamed to say that I find geriatric sex-scenes disturbing and off-putting. Having said this, Gloria's lecherous behaviour is quite common in demented people.
Alongside her life during the war, the story of the elderly Gloria evolves as she has to contend with the ghosts and people in the flesh emerging from her murky past. Her two parallel stories merge towards the end and the reader comes away as from a dark cave into the sunlight.
I'm awed by Liz Jensen's sheer mastery of writing, and Gloria's voice is utterly brilliant.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Got bored quickly
Published 8 days ago by BobMay
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of missed love that's worth a read - unless you like happy...
I wanted to give this book 3.5/5 but you can’t do half stars.

I was drawn to this book because I have an interest for the home front during WWII (ok – it was a Kindle... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mr Robert Butler
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected few hours of pleasure...
I'd had this on my Kindle for some time, but decided to finally read it after completing The Uninvited recently. Whilst I'd enjoyed that, this was something else altogether. Read more
Published 11 months ago by YeahYeahNoh
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good Read
I got this book as a Kindle Daily Deal a while back. The flipping between the past and the present was engaging and kept my interest piqued. Read more
Published 11 months ago by K Ross
2.0 out of 5 stars coarse-practically illiterate language from the main protagonist...
I really dislike this book. No eloquence what so ever. I understand that the people concerned are 'everyday folk', however the writing is crude in meaning as well as style. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Leisel-loves-to-read
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book
This is the second book by Liz Jenson I have read and I plan to read the rest of her work. It is another well written book with strong and believable characters and a great story. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Kate
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant.
This is the best book that I have read for ages. The story is told in a wonderfully garbled series of recollections. Read more
Published 15 months ago by T'Lil
3.0 out of 5 stars IT'S OKAY
I enjoyed this book, but it wasn't as good as I expected it to be. Certainly not a book that sticks would stick in my memory, but good for passing the time on a long journey.
Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars War crimes for the home
I did not think l would enjoy this book, but l really did not want the book to be finished.
Published 15 months ago by R mitchell
2.0 out of 5 stars Dont like it
I Did not finish this book which is very unlike me. Did not hold my interest. Don't reccomend this book.
Published 15 months ago by mojo
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